During a previous life, I managed stores for the F.W. Woolworth Company. One day I got, "promoted," to a store where the previous manager had been fired. His offense was that he was basically, "Bozo the Clown." The Regional Director who put me into the store came to visit me about a week into my tenure there, and beat the living daylights out of me. He knew that the problems that I faced there were not of my doing, and he knew further that it was going to take longer than a week to clean things up. The store had organizational problems, operational problems, merchandising problems, and most importantly resembled Beirut after the trouble started. As he left, and believe me, I'd never been so happy to see a person leave, he looked at me and said, "don't let yourself get down. None of this is your fault, but that does not change the fact that you're responsible for it now. You have six months where the suits will be willing to cut you a little slack. After that, they'll expect to see tangible results. It won't matter at that point whether six months is a reasonable amount of time or not, that's just the expiration date on patience. My job is to see that you beat that deadline and get things turned around before the suits run out of patience." His message to me was that as the top guy in the store, everything right or wrong with the store at that time, was my personal responsibility. I had ownership of all the right and wrong within that operation, and if I wanted the top spot, I had to live with that ownership. I went a full year without a day off, and actually managed to go through my first of several divorces while in beautiful Pontiac, Michigan.
There is an iconic photograph which has over the years since its capture, been used to highlight the relationships between current and past Presidents. The photo below, actually won a Pulitzer Prize in 1962. What is somewhat lesser known however, is the story behind it.
The photo was taken at a widely publicized meeting between John Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower shortly after the, "Bay of Pigs," fiasco. President Kennedy, like all Presidents with the unfortunate exception of George W. Bush, was an avid watcher of the polls, in particular how Americans in general felt about the job he was doing as our Chief Executive. The meeting in question was staged mostly as a photo op. President Kennedy wanted to be seen by the public as a President who was willing to consult with well respected advisers, especially when his ill advised operation blew up in such a spectacular fashion.
During the meeting, President Kennedy remarked, "all I did was to follow your plan." Former President and General Eisenhower quickly corrected the younger Kennedy with the following statement. "Excuse me Mr. President, but it ceased being my plan on January 20, 1961. At that time sir, it became your plan." He then went on to point out some of the finer details which were changed significantly since the changes in administration, and how those small changes changed significantly the results of the operation, and included a bit about the importance for a Commander in Chief to weigh carefully the advice of his field Commanders. But the important part of the conversation, and one that every President must live by remains this:
Excuse me Mr. President, but it ceased being my plan on January 20, 1961. At that time sir, it became your plan.
Every time some well deserved criticism of the current President finds its way to the arena of ideas, we'll hear the refrains of, "yeah but." The, "yeahbuts," as I like to call them all have one major theme in mind. It wasn't the Bamster's fault, as former Presidents did the same thing, started what ever program it was that has everybody peeved, was left a mess, is less guilty than his predecessors, or just hasn't had ample time to fix all of the problems yet.
I do have some specific examples in mind, and these are mostly related to tripe I've listened to recently.
"The NSA domestic spying program is merely a continuation of a Bush Administration Program."
The answer is yes it is, however leaving it there is an intellectual dishonesty that bears scrutiny. While it is true that the Patriot Act gives the Department of Homeland Security permission to seek warrants for wiretaps based upon the lowered threshold of Reasonable Suspicion, and that the FISA Court has no oversight, no appeals process attached to it worthy of mention, and no opportunity for those accused to confront their accusers or materially defend themselves in any way, equating the Bush usage of FISA with the Obama usage of this program is worse than comparing apples to oranges. First off, under the Bush Program, and as wrong as the whole thing is, his Administration at least used the Reasonable Suspicion threshold to obtain those warrants. For each and every Bush Administration warrant, a specific target was named, based upon previous investigation. Many of our wins were a result of those warrants, including the Obama spiking of the Bin Laden football, repeatedly during the run up to the 2012 election. That is a far cry from Barack Obama's blanket warrant to tap the phones and cell phones of every man, woman, and child in the United States of America. Equating the two is beyond intellectual dishonesty, and moves into the realm of flat out deceptive. It does however highlight a terrible reality, and that is what ever brilliant idea is set up by one President does not disappear during the inauguration of the next. It is still possible that a Bill Clinton might follow a Ronald Reagan. Any program of government, no matter how well intentioned, can be turned into a force for evil, and as Barack Obama has shown us, with seeming lightning speed.
Two of the more pernicious comparisons involve the left's most hated President, Ronald Reagan.
First we have the great Reagan raised taxes 11 times myth.
This piece of crapola has been debunked so many times, and yet continues to raise its ugly head any time economic debate crops up, that I think the rumor was started as an effort to cast Reagan in George Romero's next Living Dead effort. This of course got its Frankenstein like creation with the 1986 Tax Reform Act. In that piece of landmark legislation that saw our top marginal tax rate dropped from percentages in the 70's to 33%, also saw the elimination of several deductions, many of which were not designed to aid businesses in classifying true costs of their operations as costs, but were instead designed to tweak behavior contrary to what pure market conditions might otherwise dictate. Relaxation of those silly cafe standards, deregulation of trucking and rail industry which allowed for trucking companies that did not trucking at all to earn Millions in phantom profits, not offering tax credits to produce goods and services that would be otherwise ignored by a market place left free from political whimsy were all achieved through this legislation. That simplification of the tax code is what is being referred to as, "Reagan's 11 tax increases." It is a lie, and not a very clever lie at that.
The other bit of dishonesty is the comparison of the number of Executive Orders issued. During his State of the Union Address this year, President Zero announced that should the House refuse to simply acquiesce to his lordship's desires, he would use his phone and pen, (which he possesses by the way,) to simply skirt the Constitutional limits placed upon any President and issue his decrees via executive fiat. The thought of a President appointing himself a despot goes against every founding principle of our nation, and is something that most Americans are staunchly against. (The hard core sycophants of both major political parties are all in favor of this when it is their guy occupying the big desk, but will whine like stuck pigs when that spot is taken by the other guy's chosen favorite son.) Not all Executive Orders are of the despotic stripe however. Bear that in mind when you hear this next bit of lunacy. It would seem the the latest strategy is to point out that Ronald Reagan actually signed his name to more Executive Orders than Barack Obama has at this point in either man's Administration.
All executives, in any organization, must issue dictates as to how they will enforce the policies within the purview of what they administrate. Ronald Reagan signing an Executive Order that limits coffee breaks of federal employees to two per day at 15 minutes each is in no way the equivalent to Barack Obama signing an order that expands the scope and authority of the EPA beyond any constraint placed upon it by Congress when that agency was established. There is a vast difference between demanding that a new federal form be implemented that seeks to further financial scrutiny involving miscellaneous expenses supported by tax payers and one that grants the Department of Education authority to use armed teams to affect the arrest of people delinquent with their student loan repayment. (That last one has already happened for real by the way, just in case anyone got the bright idea to label the sentiment hyperbole.) As a matter of fact, not a single one of Reagan's Executive Orders, voluminous as they are, has been called into question here, which leads me to believe that they couldn't find any actual examples of nefarious behavior on the part of our 40th President.
One of the Articles of Impeachment drawn up against Richard Nixon was for his mere mention of using the IRS to thwart the activities of his political adversaries. Barack Obama has crossed that line, and actually used the IRS as his personal campaign tool. I believe that he should be impeached and found guilty of the actual crime that he's committed. I know that it won't happen, which is shameful. At some point in time, the Political Left in this nation should be held to some small accounting of the actions that they take. I know that what I'll get instead is some statement that some Republican Assembly Person in some city will have made some politically incorrect statement, and the whole world will lose its collective mind. Then we'll see several former self styled conservatives who have taken that as the last straw in a world gone mad, and will lament the Republican Party's unfortunate shift to the world of crazy radicalism. In the meantime, incandescent light bulbs are becoming illegal to produce and sell, cafe standards are making it twice as expensive to drive cars as a free market would otherwise dictate, soda pop is under assault by the food Nazis, and farmers are forced to treat spilled milk in the exact same fashion as an industrial chemical spill.
The bottom line is that there are vast differences in how the various duties of President have been executed between Barack Obama, and every other person to have held the position. While many of his actions might appear to be the same as previous Presidents, the fact is that the specifics do matter, and they matter a lot.