Professor Obama Lectures On Debt Crisis: He Has Many Ideas, But No Answers
New York Daily News
July 26, 2011
A wise professor once told me that the reason I went to college was to become a consumer of knowledge. And the reason I went to graduate school was to become a producer of it.
Consuming knowledge, and pontificating on grand theories in smoky coffee shops, is the fun part. But producing knowledge - putting theories into real-world practice - is really, really hard. And significantly less fun.
But that's the job of a leader. It's to leave the world of hypotheticals and enter the world of problem-solving, crisis management and tough decisions. The kind of decisions for which there are actual consequences, not just ones that live on a page or hang in the air like clove cigarette smoke circles in a beatnik coffee shop.
But don't tell that to President Obama. He's made a substantial living as a career student, which has carried him well into middle age, as he persistently refuses to leave the world of lazy knowledge consumption.
We're less than a week away from our debt ceiling deadline, and the President has yet to bring a plan of his own to the table, instead relying on others to address the looming fiscal crisis.
And yet he's been more than happy to talk about it, delivering speeches and holding news conferences.
But just like the kid who refuses to help with the group project while criticizing how it's being done, Obama has petulantly scolded House and Senate Republicans for their ideas, although he has offered none himself.
Obama's every move seems a political calculation instead of real leadership, and that pattern has been evident throughout these latest debt negotiations, with the President coming out early to warn Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that he would not support a short-term solution to the debt crisis.
That wasn't because he had a long-term solution of his own to herald, but because he doesn't want to have to talk about taxes and spending cuts six months down the road, with his reelection campaign in full swing.
It's precisely this kind of political calculation that has frustrated GOP leadership to the point of desperation, as Cantor (R-Va.) told me Monday night.
"As long as Obama is in the White House, the American people don't get what they want," he said.
The newest plan from House Republicans, which raises the debt ceiling in two short-term steps and offers $1 trillion in immediate spending cuts, looks to put Obama's political calculation in serious peril.
"It takes the one thing away from the President that he wants most," said Cantor. "Not to talk about taxes and spending cuts later."
So after rejecting the plans of others in lieu of offering one of his own, Obama is now between the proverbial rock and hard place.
It's familiar territory. When confronted with a shaky economy early in his term, he outsourced the dirty work of devising a solution to then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Appropriations Committee. Now he will have to answer for that stimulus bill's many failures.
And when confronted with the Libyan rebels' attempted overthrow of Moammar Khadafy, he threw us into a nonwar war without plan or purpose. As former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told me, usually leaders come up with a plan and then build a coalition around it, not the other way around.
Confronted by a budget crisis earlier this year - the crisis being that we had no budget to speak of - he was happy to let Congress figure that out, too.
Now here we are facing yet another big test of leadership, and the President is punting responsibility to anyone he can. For all the hype about his soaring intellect and idea-filled brain, he has yet to solve many real-world problems down here on planet Earth.
In fact, he's yet to contribute much of anything in the way of actionable ideas. As goes the mantra of frustrated Republican leadership, you can't vote on speeches.
As the clock ticks down on the debt crisis, and yet another plan is in the works, will voters realize they were duped three years ago when they voted for the perennial student who can produce nothing of his own? You'd better believe House Republicans are counting on it.