March 1 2012
As expected, President Obama strode purposefully to the lectern at the University of Miami late last week and, solemnly surveying the crowd, took responsibility for skyrocketing gasoline prices that threaten our struggling recovery.
Of course, that is not quite the way it went down. Shortly before the Florida speech, the Hill newspaper reported that the president was planning to “move aggressively this week to deflect blame for rising gas prices.”
Mr. Obama deflecting blame? You don’t say.
This must be the most blame-deflecting White House in our nation’s history. This is truly the Eddie Haskell presidency, so named after the bratty “Leave It to Beaver” character who always made a mess when adults’ backs were turned and then blamed Wally and the Beav.
For a while, President Blameless could shirk responsibility by pointing fingers at his predecessor. That got old, though I can’t say in a hurry. As late as last July, the White House sought to prove that Dallas resident George W. Bush was still responsible for all the nation’s budget troubles. Atlantic magazine blogger Megan McArdle deliciously characterized this lame attempt at evading responsibility as “The duck starts here.”
Mr. Obama’s roster of the blameworthy is quite eclectic: The Japanese tsunami, the Arab Spring uprisings, the European debt crisis and “bad luck” were fingered as causes of the bad economy in a speech last summer. Of course, Mr. Obama was responsible solely for fanciful successes. “We had reversed the recession, avoided a depression, gotten the economy moving again,” the president remarked before ceding the stage to the tooth fairy.
When the president, in a sop to his environmental base, killed the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have created thousands of jobs for U.S. citizens and brought us fuel from a friendly nation, that, too, was cast as the fault of the Republicans: They had had the audacity to try to force the president to make a timely decision.
In announcing that he was scrapping the pipeline, the president said the decision was “not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline” but on the “arbitrary nature of a deadline” Republicans had given him. He can’t possibly decide, at least until after this November.
When China gets the pipeline, you can bet your bottom dollar (assuming you still have a bottom dollar by then) that Mr. Obama will blame somebody else.
Many things presidents get blamed for aren’t their fault. Gasoline prices are a complicated matter in a global economy, although this didn’t stop then-Sen. Barack Obama from blaming Mr. Bush for gasoline prices in 2008.
Yet Mr. Obama’s constant blaming reflects a certain unappealing childishness. Google “Obama” and “It’s not my fault” if you want an idea of how the gasoline speech played last week. Yes, it has become a joke, but there is something decidedly unfunny about the most powerful man in the world attempting to save his skin above all else. Who is to blame, an adolescent concern, seems to be more important than anything else to this president.
Even President Blameless‘ serial apologies have an it’s-not-my-fault air: When he apologizes to other nations or their leaders, he is apologizing for us. When accepting blame for the country, he is deflecting blame from himself. In this, his shame on our behalf is genuine.
Even after Mr. Obama has been president for three years, we are supposed to hope that he will blossom into the true leader we were sold. Even now, his fans still customarily cite him for having been president of the Harvard Law Review as a major achievement. Elected at age 47, Mr. Obama seems perhaps a little younger than that: What other president would kick off his tenure in office with “date night” or be quite so overtly enamored of the perks of office?
I am hoping that come November, somebody will take the car keys away from this startlingly immature president. We need a grown-up who won’t blame others for his failings.