Saturday, October 3, 2009

Presidential Priorities

Everyone has an agenda, even if everyone doesn't acknowledge it.

Everyone thinks his/her issue should be the priority.

And, when Barack Obama took office in January, there were a lot of things that needed to be addressed. I understand the pressure he was under.

So I tried to be patient — even though I have been unemployed since last year and I have grown increasingly alarmed each month as job losses have mounted.

I heard all the big talk in February when the stimulus package was passed. I thought job creation was the priority, especially when I heard Sen. Ben Nelson say, "Call us the jobs squad."

Of course, I thought job creation was a priority a few months earlier, when candidate Obama promised tax credits for businesses that hired Americans in 2009 and 2010. Turned out that was just another politician's pledge to win votes.

It was hard for me to stay silent when Obama famously filled out his NCAA tournament bracket in March, but I tried to be patient when Obama went on TV later in the month and compared his bowling skills to the Special Olympics. His remark opened up a discussion about the use of the word "retard," but it didn't alleviate the unemployment problem.

As the spring went on and administration critics held their famous "tea parties", I continued to try to be patient — as I did when an opening popped up in the Supreme Court. As president, Obama had to nominate a replacement.

By then, the battle lines seemed to have been drawn.

We got into the summer months, and, in July, the president urged the unemployed to be patient so I tried to be patient, but I knew then, as I know now, that time is not an infinite commodity for me. I was assured, by many sources, that job creation was not on the back burner. I wasn't convinced of that, but I put my trust in them.

Anyway, during the summer, the administration turned most of its attention to health care reform. And I tried to remain patient — but then Democrats helped to derail the public option that Obama wanted. Meaningful reform no longer seems like a possibility, even a remote one.

This week may have exhausted what was left of my patience.

While Obama was jetting to Copenhagen to press for Chicago to be the host of the 2016 Olympics, word came out that unemployment had gone up in September, that more than 250,000 jobs had been lost.

Phil Izzo of the Wall Street Journal reported on economists' assessment of the weak labor picture. National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers insisted that the worst of the recession is over. That's a hard sell for the unemployed, especially since one–third of jobless Americans have been out of work for more than six months.

Meanwhile, Obama seems to have been under the impression that his charisma would carry the day with the International Olympic Committee. It did not.

The Wall Street Journal, which hasn't exactly been Obama's ally, insisted that it would not "join those who pounded President Obama for taking a day to travel to Copenhagen."

But Mike Lupica, in the New York Daily News, came closer to expressing my feelings when he wrote that "[t]his wasn't the President's fight. For a smart guy, he does some dumb things sometimes."

Or, as the New York Times asked, "What was President Obama thinking?"

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