Reviews Mixed on Obama's First Year
Republican and Democratic leaders in Moore County agree that President Obama's first year in office did not end on an optimistic note.
A Republican, Scott Brown, won election to the Senate seat held for more than 40 years by the late Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts. Whether that is a prelude to more Democratic losses in the mid-term elections in November remains to be seen.
"His first year has been just a year of elitism, corruption, socialism and surrender," said Bob Levy, chairman of the Moore County Republican Party. "That's the Obama administration, up and down."
Levy said Obama and his followers have not been listening to the people and have not grasped an understanding that they "don't want a socialist agenda."
John Owen, Levy's predecessor as head of the Moore County GOP, expressed grim concern about the huge deficit in the trillions of dollars.
"Obama is a great campaigner, but there's a lot of difference between campaigning and governing," Owen said.
But Jim Heim, chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party, said the president's critics are ignoring the accomplishments of his first year.
Heim said the $787 billion economic stimulus plan, despite criticism, is credited by many economists for saving the country from economic depression and preventing a worsening of the unemployment situation.
He said it is too early to assess the situation in Massachue Democratic column for years and the home of Kennedy, called the "lion" of the Senate.
"While these big issues grab headlines, President Obama has accomplished many less publicized but no less important goals along the way," Heim said.
Heim cited a number of accomplishments: a Supreme Court appointment, the Lily Ledbetter Act, lifting the ban on stem cell research, new regulations for credit card and tobacco industries, rescue of the nation's financial institutions.
He added that the "Cash for Clunkers" program gave a needed boost to automobile manufacturers and dealers and also helped individuals and the environment.
Other accomplishments cited by Heim include increased benefits for military personnel and veterans.
"I think he has been doing things that needed to be done," said Brian Deaton, immediate past chairman of Moore County Democrats. "He's taken steps to try to stabilize our financial situation for the long term."
In particular, Deaton cited the president's foreign policy for completely changing "the way the rest of the world regards the United States." The beginning of the withdrawal of troops from Iraq was the first step toward achieving that goal, he said.
'Get the Message'
Reviewing the results of the special election in Massachusetts Tuesday, Levy called it a case of the people speaking up about their views.
"They told Obama that they don't like his leftist agenda," Levy said.
Levy said the voters of Massachusetts were also sending a message that if the Obama administration does not listen to their wishes, "the Democratic Party will be history." He said the president, the Senate majority leader and the speaker of the House simply do not understand that.
He added that he does not believe the Democrats will change.
"The Holy Grail of liberalism is a state-controlled economy, and they don't want to abandon that," Levy said. "I hope that eventually the Democrats will understand that they are on the wrong track."
Levy said the Democrats' health-care bill is headed in the wrong direction and goes too far.
He said what the nation needs is legislation that allows insurance policies across state lines, tort reform for malpractice insurance and other reforms that the public wants and needs.
"I hope he will concentrate on the economy," Levy said. "The administration has totally abandoned the people in a weak economy."
Instead of creating jobs, Levy said the administration has handed money to cronies and shut out the Republican Party in development of the health care and other laws.
"People want lower taxes and less government," he said. "We'd have a better economy if they would listen to the people, but they haven't got the message of the people."
If the administration does get the message, Levy thinks the Democrats will begin to work from a bipartisan standpoint and everyone will benefit.
"You have to have a sense that you're governing for all the people, not just a few people," Levy said.
The loss in Massachusetts is not the first for Democrats since Obama took office. Levy points to recent Democratic losses in New Jersey and Virginia.
Levy said the president should have listened to his own rhetoric when he was campaigning.
"He has not stopped corruption," he said. "You don't make secret deals with unions, pharmaceutical companies, bankers and the Federal Reserve. We want government for all the people. It's a message the Democrats need to get, and the Republicans need to get the message, too."
Owen recalled his election-night predictions in November 2008. He said those have come true to a far greater extent than expected.
"I had no idea we would get into such debt-ridden and constitutional issues," Owen said. "They're disregarding due process. It's a sad thing."
Owen recalled his prediction a year ago that the Republican Party would rebound in 2010 and would become stronger than ever. He said Obama had an opportunity "to move forward and do some incredible things" but has not been able to achieve those goals.
No National Referendum
However, Heim warns against over-estimating the impact of the Massachusetts election.
"Polling suggested that the problem was a lackluster candidate and not over-arching national issues," Heim said. "During the brief campaign, polling numbers for congressional approval, health-care reform popularity as well as that of the president remained stable. But the Democratic candidate lost substantial support from start to finish as her opponent gained. It would be incorrect to think of this as a national referendum."
Heim said the Massachusetts results represent the only Republican gain in Congress since Obama's inauguration.
"Mr. Obama still has a stronger majority in the Senate than Mr. Bush ever enjoyed," Heim said. "And it should not be forgotten that the president began in a deep hole.
"His predecessor doubled the national debt at the same time that employment plummeted."
Heim said employment actually declined during the Bush administration at a time when the populationgrew by 30 million.
He said restoration of a large economy facing such massive problems will not be easy or quick.
"President Obama's achievements in his first year are unprecedented, but the challenges he and our country face are daunting," Heim said. "Success will require hard work by all parties. One can hope that our Republican colleagues will be willing to leave the sidelines and do what's necessary to restore our economy, creating the engine that fuels it." ess will require hard work by all parties. One can hope that our Republican colleagues will be willing to leave the sidelines and do what's necessary to restore our economy, creating the engine that fuels it."
Can't Solve All Problems
The $1 trillion-plus deficit troubles Owen, who worries about the future of his children and grandchildren.
"I don't even know how much $1 trillion is," Owen said. "How many boxcars would it take to fill up? It's beyond my comprehension. It's mind-boggling."
Owen said the framers of the Constitution had divine inspiration to produce a system that has survived many difficulties through the centuries.
"And we will survive this, but some corrections must be made," Owen said.
Deaton said the president has fallen victim to a lot of short-term solutions to important issues that the public has been impatient for resolution.
Nevertheless, he said he thinks Obama has done many things that will eventually bring the economy under control.
"Obama has done some very important things to re-establish relationships with countries around the world," he said. "We no longer go around dictating things to other countries."
Deaton said the president cannot immediately solve all the problems created before he took office.
"It's not going to happen in a short time," he said. "I believe he's got a good understanding and a good sense of what needs to be done."
Deaton said he has no special insight into the outcome of the health-care bill but mentioned the possibility that all is not lost, despite dire predictions by Republicans and some Democrats.
Deaton sums up his feelings this way: "I'm still very proud that Barack Obama is president of the United States, and it's not just because I'm a Democrat."
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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