By Judd Gregg - 02/24/14 06:00 AM EST
The most interesting thing about the Obama presidency, at least since 2010, is that there have been very few really serious crises, yet the administration has not managed to accomplish much.
After the unemployment rate peaked during President Obama’s first year in office, growth has returned to the economy and the jobless rate has been ticking downward.
There has been no attack on the homeland at any point, much less one on the scale of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that traumatized the country and our political culture.
The war in Afghanistan goes on but is winding down of itself more than as a result of any coherent policy.
The closest we have come to real crisis in the past four years has been via the occasional and totally self-inflicted problems of confrontation with other branches of government — more specifically, with the House of Representatives.
These showdowns can be eventful but they are not defining or overwhelming to the nation.
Given all this, these past few years have been a time of opportunity. There was a chance to address and correct much of what might be considered wrong or in need of repair in the way we govern ourselves. This could have been a breathing spell, so to speak, when good things got done.
But the time has not been used well.
The legacy of this president has been frittered away on marginal issues and self-inflicted wounds.
ObamaCare, the supposed crown jewel of governance for Obama, is unraveling with such rapidity that he and his aides may use up the nation’s duct tape supply trying to bind it back together.
A program that was supposed to have as its defining purpose the giving of health insurance to the uninsured, is now uninsuring the insured.
It is now putting forth as its claim to success the fact that it encourages millions of people to give up work in order to get a benefit from the government.
It is said by administration spokespeople, one hopes without a straight face, that this gives people more freedom to do what they want with their lives: not work and live off of someone else’s effort that produces the revenues that pay for them not to work.
It also seems as if the primary purpose of the administration’s attorney general and the Justice Department has become the promotion of Hollywood’s cause du jour. This may be important, but it hardly ranks up there with defending the nation from attacks by terrorists or fighting to reduce the drug trade.
Even the president’s party has decided to stymie the effort being made to create greater economic growth and international cooperation.
Note, for instance, the blunt rejection by Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidOvernight Finance: Obama signs Puerto Rico bill | Trump steps up attacks on trade | Dodd-Frank backers cheer 'too big to fail' decision | New pressure to fill Ex-Im board Iowa poll: Clinton up 14 on Trump, Grassley in tight race with Dem Lynch meeting with Bill Clinton creates firestorm for email case MORE (D-Nev.) of trade agreements with our Pacific or European trading partners. This gives new meaning to the term “non-starter” in trade policy.
The claim now is that the president will procure a legacy by using his power to regulate through the various federal agencies. Of course, he has already populated these agencies with people of progressive purpose who hope, like their boss, to change our culture.
This is governing from behind a curtain.
It may work in the short run. It will certainly put a great many folks who are trying to make it in the private sector in the crosshairs of zealots of social justice and industrial policy.
But, like the Wizard of Oz, at some point the curtain will be pulled back and the policies of the unelected bureaucracy will be seen plainly by the electorate.
The voters will be rather irritated by the counter-productive foolishness of a government that has no awareness of, or interest in, the forces that create economic growth and opportunity.
To say that this has been a lost time would be kind.
Nothing is yet burning but this has been a time of presidential leadership that is fiddling.
There are still many issues that could be addressed in what remains of Obama’s time in office. They could help him to depart with a flare that passes a brighter future on to the nation. Among them are entitlement reform, tax reform and the restructuring of our military.
All of these goals require working across the aisle and bringing together the American people. This can be accomplished if Obama wishes to do it.
It is time to put down the fiddle and call on the orchestra to play together.
Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.