President Obama Defends the Indefensible

COMMENTARY | President Obama has a new variation on the famous question posed by Ronald Reagan, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The way he phrases it is, “Are you better off with my policies that you would be with someone else’s policies?”

The question does not fall trippingly from his tongue as a sound bite as it did Reagan’s. It is also, considering the continuing economic malaise, a very hard question to say yes to indeed.

Obama is in a position of having to defend the indefensible, which is to say an economic record that is a failure from the time he raised his hand to take the oath of office to the very second he opens his mouth to offer yet another defense. The problem is that Obama is not very good at holding untenable ground.

There is a story about the Duke of Wellington on the eve of Waterloo, depicted in the movie by the same name, having come upon a soldier who had stolen a pig. Wellington queried the soldier about his ill-gotten gain. With each question, the soldier answered with one elaborate excuse after another, showing tenacity in trying to explain why he had apparently committed a crime punishable by death in Wellington’s army. At last, Wellington broke into a grin and pronounced this soldier very capable of defending an indefensible position and ordered him promoted to Corporal. The next day the polyglot of British, Germans, Dutch, Flemish, and Walloons held off Napoleon’s Grand Army until relieved by Blucher’s Prussian Army.

Obama will need all the tenacity of that British soldier with the leadership of a Wellington and no little luck if he is to be re-elected president. So far he does not seem to possess either tenacity, leadership, or luck.

Obama has careened from attacking Republicans to making statements like people being better off under him than under some other person. He lacks the guile to cut deals with Republicans, as Clinton did, and thus defuse a host of issues. Luck has not been with him, either, as the economy teeters on the edge of collapse.

Perhaps Obama, who seemed so much like a political Napoleon in 2008, is at last about to meet his own Waterloo.

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