By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
Four years ago, a first-term US Senator blazed a trail. Promising hope and change, he declared himself to be post-partisan and promised an end to usual Washington gridlock and malaise, economic and political. To gain his party’s nomination, he defeated the Clintons, and he then sent the Republican candidate crashing and burning to defeat.
Senator John McCain ran a very imperfect campaign and was inept at pointing out his opponent’s flaws or giving people a good reason to vote for him.
Electing Barack Obama as president of the United States was a gamble, but millions were so mesmerized by him, his speeches and his message that they ignored his past associations and policies. Back then, Obama performed admirably. His rhetoric for change was brilliant. All through the primaries, he kept at it with bite-sized promises of “Change,” “Hope” and “Yes, We Can.” With those mantras, he brought down the Clintons and everyone else who stood in his way. Doggedly, they tried beating him back with ideology, with arguments, and with a fair amount of mud, but it didn’t work. The rallying cry of “Change!” won the day and swept the nation.
Back then, Obama presented himself as a blank canvas upon which people could project their own hopes, dreams and ambitions. He crafted himself as a man who could appeal to all people of all persuasions at the same time. His compelling speeches cast their spell upon people of all ages and income levels who were looking to improve their lives, and let’s face it, who wasn’t?
Wherever he went, a cadre of citizens became enraptured by him and signed on to his team. In his campaign, they saw themselves and their aspirations. As he rolled up state after state, they felt exhilarated and triumphant. As their man inched closer to the presidency, they felt a validation of their own inner stirrings and ambitions.
That all changed after Obama won and set about realizing his dreams and ambitions for the country. His plans didn’t work out and the country spent the years of his presidency mired in economic difficulty. Unemployment rose, incomes plummeted, and poverty increased. He plunged the country into a further $5 trillion of debt in a bid to get the economy moving, to no avail. He spent his first two years, when he controlled both houses of Congress, pushing through his dubious health plan and did nothing for creating jobs.
He promised to increase America’s influence around the world, but the opposite happened. His outreach to Muslim countries backfired, as the Arab Spring caught him unprepared. He tangled with Israel and its feisty prime minister, upsetting Israelis, Jews and freedom-lovers around the world.
When time came for reelection, he didn’t have a positive record on which to run. His campaign was reduced to identifying the largest number of sub-groups who could be convinced to vote for him and energizing them to go out and vote. It may work, but it is a far cry from the over-arching campaign he ran four years ago.
There is also reason for concern about the impact of Obama’s failed Middle East policies on Israel’s security, as well as his openly hostile personal relationship with Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu.
There is a grave danger and much uncertainty facing Israel from Iran’s imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons. After four years of missed opportunities and ineffective diplomacy, Obama has failed to halt Iran’s nuclear drive. While the most recent US and European economic sanctions on Iran have started to bite, Obama agreed to them begrudgingly, forced into them by Congress and others. Currently, waivers to the oil import embargo are being granted to Japan, South Korea, India and China, which provide Iran with $50 billion annually to support its failing economy, complete its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and bolster Hezbollah in Lebanon and the terrorist cells it has established around the world, including in Central and South America.
The US and Israel face a resurgence of terrorism in the region, as epitomized by the 9/11 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. The Muslim Brotherhood, which gave rise to Hamas, is now in control of Egypt, posing a serious threat to the future of the Camp David peace treaty. The violence in Syria, directly on Israel’s northern border, threatens to spill over. No one knows what Syria will look like when the current internal struggle finally ends.
President Obama, as commander-in-chief, is responsible for setting the level of US military, economic and diplomatic support for Israel. His relationship with its leaders is crucial to Israel’s security and survival in the face of unprecedented security threats.
The US-Israeli relationship has always had its ups and downs. Even presidents known for their enthusiastic support of Israel, such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, had conflicts with Israel over specific issues. But no recent president has so openly and bitterly clashed with Israel’s leaders or attempted to so brazenly dictate Israel’s security and territorial policies.
Obama has also gone to unprecedented lengths to impose his domestic political agenda. The checks and balances on presidential power in the US Constitution, and the political realities of the two-party system, force most presidents to seek compromise with the opposition, even when his own party controls both houses of Congress. Imposing his ideological agenda on the country unilaterally, especially on important issues, risks alienating the voters and poisoning the atmosphere in Congress, throwing the federal government into partisan gridlock.
Since taking office, Obama has refused to make a serious effort to reach a mutually acceptable compromise with the Republican opposition. Even on the most ideologically divisive issues, Obama chose confrontation, rather than compromising to generate at least a modicum of bipartisan support.
This was particularly disturbing, because, when he ran for president in 2008, Obama promised to heal the bitterly partisan atmosphere in Washington that had frustrated voters and legislators. Instead, he has further deepened those divisions, polarizing Congress to the point that it has been prevented from performing many of its routine functions, such as passing an annual federal budget and managing the country’s debts.
With this president, everything is political. Obama pursued his ideological agenda at the expense of the best interests of the country. For example, when Obama took office in early 2009, the severe recession triggered by the financial crisis created a rare bipartisan consensus in Washington regarding the need for an effective means to prevent a catastrophic economic collapse.
With the help of congressional Democrats, Obama fashioned a stimulus package designed to meet liberal political objectives first and the nation’s economic needs second. Obama promised that his plan would stimulate the economy and create millions of good jobs by funding badly needed “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects. That never happened. Instead, the lion’s share of the stimulus spending was devoted to expanding federal welfare benefits, supporting the paychecks of tens of thousands of public employee union members, and wasteful government make-work projects with little or no long-term benefit to the economy.
Even after it became clear that the stimulus had failed, Obama did not launch any effective job creation program to remedy the crushing unemployment numbers. Using the Democrat majorities controlling both houses of Congress to pursue his liberal agenda, he pushed Obamacare through Congress without a single Republican vote. The plan would place the American health care system, representing one-sixth of the economy, under direct federal government control.
Meanwhile, the economy continued to languish, as more than 20 million unemployed and underemployed Americans sought good jobs in vain. Many just gave up.
Even after voters expressed their anger by giving Republicans a landslide victory in the 2010 midterm election and majority control of the House, Obama did not change course. Instead of working with Republicans, he became more confrontational. Using class warfare rhetoric, he demonized his opposition as being agents of the wealthy and privileged and the enemies of middle class families and workers. The president’s tactics further deepened the partisan gridlock in Washington.
The crisis came during the summer of 2011, when Republicans used their control of the House to block an extension of the federal debt ceiling when the deficit reached the existing limit. They threatened to force a shutdown of the federal government if Obama did not agree to spending cuts to match the increase in the debt ceiling.
As this confrontation played out publicly, Obama was engaged in secret negotiations with the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, to reach a deal that would go far beyond resolving the debt ceiling issue. At considerable political risk to his position as Speaker, Boehner proposed a far-reaching “grand bargain” with Obama on spending and taxes to bring budget deficits under control for years to come. Just when a deal seemed to be within reach, Obama undermined it by demanding additional tax increases that he knew House Republicans would never let Boehner approve.
By undermining the deal with Boehner, Obama showed that he was never serious about fulfilling his campaign promise to end the partisan bickering in Washington. Obama then embarked on an effort to win reelection to a second term by demonizing his Republican opponents.
There is also concern about what a second Obama term would mean to the US economy. Obama has not put forth a new plan to right the economy in a second term. Instead, he says that if he wins reelection, Republican opposition to his tax-and-spend proposals would crumble. He says that this will enable him to push his tax-and-spend increases through Congress ahead of the feared fiscal cliff of deep spending cuts and new taxes, scheduled to go into effect at the end of this year if nothing is done to stop them. It is highly doubtful that conservative and Republican principled opposition to Obama’s policies would automatically dissolve with his reelection, leading to a quick post-election approval of Obama’s policies Republicans have fought so strongly against.
There is concern about the drag on the economy from the tax increases on upper income individuals that will go into effect next year due to Obama’s repeal of the Bush tax cuts. That will be compounded by the phasing in of Obamacare, and the additional insurance and regulatory costs on businesses that are part of Obama’s second-term agenda. The tax increases make it unlikely that there will be a rapid revival of the US economy during his second term. The last thing the country needs is to take more money out of people’s wallets in a time of economic stagnation.
During this campaign, Obama has moved even further to the left on moral issues. He has abandoned the traditional family values to which he once paid lip service. This has led many to be concerned about the negative influence of a second Obama term on what’s left of the moral fiber of American society.
The recent revelations about the attack in Benghazi also leave one wondering about the truthfulness and priorities of the administration. Instead of immediately acknowledging that the violence was a planned terror attack, the administration told the American people and the world that it was the outgrowth of a spontaneous demonstration against a silly video mocking Islam’s founder. It took almost two weeks for Obama and his administration to admit the truth.
Disturbing emails recently published indicate that the administration knew that there was, in fact, no demonstration and that the cause of the attack was terror. Worse than that, the administration refused to approve a rescue mission at the consulate while it was under attack. The complete story of what really went on won’t be known until after the election, but already, there is enough known to cause much consternation and cause people to lose faith in this administration.
One need not be a conservative or a Republican partisan to recognize the great importance of these issues.
Republican Mitt Romney is an outstanding leader available to serve as Obama’s replacement. He has impeccable credentials. He is a man with deep religious faith and values, and is a devoted husband, father and grandfather. People who have known him for decades attest to his generous nature and decency. There is little doubt about the quality of his character. His economic, domestic and foreign policies will be beneficial to the country.
Romney can be counted on to fight to reduce the deficit. His tax proposals would put more money in people’s pockets and give them an incentive to spend, which would, in turn, help boost the economy. He would end the policy of blaming certain segments of society for the country’s ills and put in place policies that would enable the economy to reboot and unemployment to drop. Private enterprise has always been the engine of the nation’s economy, and Romney’s policies would be a boon to small businesses, allowing them to create jobs and fill the government’s coffers with tax payments generated from their increased income.
The difference between a US led by Mitt Romney over the next four years and one led by Barack Obama as a second-term president would be dramatic.
With regard to US policy in the Middle East, Romney has promised to remove any doubt regarding the full extent of US support for Israel and to make it clear to the leaders of Iran that the US will do whatever is necessary to halt its nuclear weapons program. As president, Romney has committed to restore America’s traditional role as the leader of the Free World, and to stand by and protect America’s friends and allies abroad, rather than abandoning them to the leadership of Islamic radicals from groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. Romney has also promised to stand up to the cynical efforts by Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to work against US interests around the world, including in Iran and Eastern Europe.
Domestically, Romney has promised to unleash the US economy by removing obstacles to growth imposed by Obama’s liberal agenda. These include punitive tax increases, crippling government regulations, and huge new costs on private sector employers. In addition, he will block the heavy hand of government interference imposed by Obamacare on the US health care system, rescue Medicare and Social Security from the threat of bankruptcy, and restore fiscal responsibility to the US government. This will lay the foundation for the eventual creation of 12 million new jobs, many of them through the vigorous development of domestic energy resources and an across-the-board tax cut. He will restore the incentives of the free enterprise system, making the American economy far more competitive and successful, and restoring prosperity for the entire country.
As a man of faith dedicated to traditional family values, President Romney will work to restore the moral fiber of American society. His dedication to pursuing a bipartisan approach, in sharp contrast to Obama, will begin the process of healing the bitter partisan divisions in Washington that have undermined the public’s trust and confidence in our government.
A self-made highly successful corporate turnaround expert, Romney has the experience and skills needed to revive the economy. As Massachusetts governor, Romney worked effectively with Democrats, which augurs well for his ability to keep the 2008 campaign promise that Obama broke and bridge the deep divide in Washington. As governor, he successfully balanced his state’s budget four years in a row without raising taxes.In response to Obama’s attempts to make the campaign about small, tangential issues, Romney has said that his campaign is about big things, because America faces big challenges. He is right.
This year’s election presents Americans with a big choice to make big changes. It presents an opportunity to stop the country’s slide into a debt-ridden nation on a poor economic path. It is a chance to help influence the future of the Supreme Court, as the next president will almost certainly get to choose a justice who can tilt the court towards the right or the left.
Along with most Americans, we hoped Obama’s first term would have brought the country together and on to a path of success and international leadership. Alas, he has failed. Now it is time to give someone else a chance.
It is more important than ever that on Election Day, this coming Tuesday, you go to the polls and make your voice heard and your vote count.