Mitt romney 241055 4 402

Yes we can, but we haven't

The most telling message of the Romney campaign has been to demonstrate the failure of the Obama administration to deliver on the vague but great aspirations proclaimed in 2008.

What secured the presidency for Obama was the recession that had set in weeks prior to that election. His victory was also abetted by the disappointingly weak campaign waged by his opponent, Senator John McCain.

There was the inevitable tendency of an electorate to change a party in power for eight years. Also, the Iraq War, even though it had been won in a couple of months, seemed endless because of its aftermath: the occupation and control of Iraq.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

Senator Barack Obama had going for him the overwhelming sympathy of the media. Furthermore, the inherently decent instinct of the American electorate was to select an African American candidate as president as a conclusive gesture that American's troubled racial history was near an amicable resolution.

His capable rhetorical skills excited young people. Finally, and possibly decisively, was the electoral turnout of many members of the African American community usually not drawn to vote.

His running mate, Senator Joe Biden, was an old Democratic war horse and veteran of a number of unsuccessful presidential nomination bids. In own his effort against Obama, he had very politically incorrectly described him as a black candidate who did not frighten people.

Central to Obama's campaign was a message of hope and change, ranging from peace in world, controlling climate change, and overcoming social and economic inequality.

An indication of the popular good will toward the new administration was the fury with which commentators turned on the conservative political radio personality Rush Limbaugh because he indicated that he hoped the new president would fail.

Of course, what Limbaugh meant was not the failure of Obama as a person, but the failure of his policy ambitions which Limbaugh, and probably many more Americans than was realized at the time, opposed.

Specific programs Obama was suspected of wanting to advance were an ambitious public health program, increased regulations of economic enterprises, greater public investment, and more generous support for education.

At the same time, the president hoped to couple these with bringing national public indebtedness under control. The previous Republican administration had allowed national debt to soar by not curbing government extravagance, in spite of the party's historic commitment to fiscal prudence, but also by the cost of war.

Accordingly, they suffered the inevitable political failure of trying to combine "guns and butter", as had Harry Truman in 1952, Lyndon Johnson in 1968, and Jimmy Carter in 1980. The first two had personally withdrawn, leaving their replacements, Adlai Stevenson and Hubert Humphrey, to carry the burden of a failed race.

George W. Bush was constitutionally inhibited from running for a third term, leaving the task to Senator McCain. As a campaigner, McCain was nowhere near the articulate Stevenson or the loquacious Humphrey, both of whose skills had been insufficient for electoral victory.

At first, President Obama had at his advantage with control of both houses of Congress, a sitiation which some imagined would be followed by a bold first hundred days parallel to the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal in 1933.

But something happened on the way to achievement. No doubt the administration's defenders will attribute failure to the opposition of the Republicans who gained control of the House of Representatives in the midterm election in 2010.

But before then, the president had secured his massive health care measure, which even gained a mixed Supreme Court approbation last summer, and launched a massive economic stimulus designed to generate many "shovel ready" jobs.

Yet today the national debt continues to soar, entitlements like Social Security and Medicare remain in an ultimately fiscally precarious situation, unemployment is as high as when the administration began, the quality of those jobs that have been created are poorer, women are economically less well off in terms of pay and job availability, and half the college graduates face unemployment combined with large student loan debts.

American troops are out of Iraq, but violence there continues, and has increased in many other places in the Mideast, often in lieu, or as part of, the celebrated "Arab Spring."

The Obama-Biden campaign has modified its boasting that al Qaeda was on the run following the killing of Bin Laden. This follows the killing of the American ambassador and four others in Libya in a terrorist attack, rather than as a consequence of mob violent action prompted by an anti-Islamic video, as suggested earlier by administration spokespersons.

The extraordinary outreach to the Islamic world undertaken by the administration seems to have been accompanied by increased hostility toward the United States rather than good will. The anticipated era of peace, for which Obama was prematurely awarded the Nobel Prize in 2009, seems very distant.

Judging from the rhetoric that came through the vice president's smirks and gestures in his national debate with Congressman Paul Ryan, the administration combines a confidence that the mission in Afghanistan is succeeding and that we can be out in 2014, with an indifferent suggestion that it should be up to the Afghans to take care of themselves.

The last sentiment might well be that of a majority of Americans, who are skeptical about the alleged success and even wonder why we need stay until 2014.

In short, the administration has neither curbed the recession, especially in terms of unemployment, nor stimulated economic growth.

While stocks have recovered, possibly in part because of reckless Federal Reserve action, and the artificial restrictions on the growth of interest rates, that scarcely warrants strong economic confidence.

At the time of writing, recent polls, for what they are worth, have suggested momentum for Mitt Romney and the Republicans.

If so, it would confirm a renewed appreciation on the part of the American electorate that most of our economic problems can be best met by ourselves rather than waiting for government direction and subsidy.

It may well be that the American electorate is beginning to realize that economic recovery is more likely to follow if the government steps out of the way and allow buyers and sellers, employers and employees, to make their own decisions as to what they want, what they will pay, what they will sell, what they will charge, and in what they will invest.

That will do more to further prosperity than all the plans formulated by government planners.