“Can’t Be Worse Than Obama”
For the last four years, Barack Obama has proved himself incompetent. As a presidential candidate, even he said that if he could not help improve the economy and reduce unemployment, he’d probably be looking for a new job. He has failed on both. President Obama did kill Osama Bin Laden and get us out of Iraq (a timetable already in place before he was president). But he also continued and expanded the same foreign and national security policies he once blasted President Bush over—undeclared wars, less civil liberty, increased Executive power. Obama has exploded our national debt to $16 trillion—the largest amount and most rapid increase in American history.
Such a bad record has led many Americans, and particularly Republicans, to say that despite Mitt Romney’s flaws, “nothing could be worse than Obama.”
Actually, history tells us quite the opposite.
Millions of Americans voted for Barack Obama believing that no one could be worse than Bush. Yet by every measure—jobs, debt, the economy—Obama has been worse than Bush. This is particularly true on the issues of foreign policy and civil liberties where Obama continues to out-Bush, Bush. Democrats in particular would’ve never guessed this would happen.
When millions of Americans voted for George W. Bush for president, they believed that he had to be an improvement over Bill Clinton. Republicans in particular were outraged by the exploding national debt throughout the 1990s. When the GOP took over the House in 1994 it was driven in part by outrage over a $4 trillion national debt, leading President Clinton to declare “the era of big government” was over. Little did Clinton know that the era of big government was just getting started—when his successor, George W. Bush, would go on to double the national debt. Republicans in particular would’ve never guessed this would happen.
Millions of Americans saw Bill Clinton as an improvement over the failures of George H. W. Bush. Yet, Clinton spent more than Bush the elder. Even Ronald Reagan—the last conservative to sit in the White House and the greatest president of my lifetime—presided over the massive growth of government and debt.
At least Reagan had the excuse of having the Soviet Union to contend with. What was Bush the elder’s excuse? What was Clinton’s excuse? Who knew George W. Bush would end up looking like liberal Lyndon Johnson compared to Clinton? Who knew Barack Obama would end up looking like neocon Dick Cheney compared to Bush?
I have expressed my concerns about Mitt Romney become president, particularly on his plans to spend an additional $2 trillion on the military during a time when we are racking up $1 trillion-plus deficits annually. If you’re genuinely going to cut spending, the math simply doesn’t add up. I also criticized Romney’s explicitly neoconservative speech at the Virginia Military Institute last month, where the governor promised more unnecessary wars at any cost and for virtually any reason.
What a Mitt Romney victory represents is an opportunity for an improvement over what we have now. This is what many Republicans naturally expect. But that expectation is more hope than assessment. Romney’s rhetoric simply does not jibe with his policy promises. If he has promised to balance the budget, he doesn’t have the math to show how he will accomplish this. Promising more wars to the tune of $2 trillion is certainly not reassuring.
Obama promised to balance the budget as well. He promised a less costly and more prudent foreign policy than what Bush had. Four years later, Obama’s rhetoric has not matched reality.
Will Romney’s rhetoric match reality should he become president? The American Conservative’s James Antle explains his own conservative dilemma this election, as seen through the filter of the past two elections: “I haven’t been able to vote for the last two Republican nominees, though I haven’t voted Democratic either. I’d like to return to the GOP fold.”
Yet I can’t help but think back to 2000. I planned all year long to vote for Pat Buchanan. I supported him in the Reform Party’s mail-in primary. Yet the closeness of the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore brought me back to the GOP. Twelve years and two wars later—one that went on too long, the other unjust from the start—I wish I’d stuck with PJB.
I voted for Patrick J. Buchanan in the 2000 election. And I’m still proud I did.
I am not excited about the outcome of this election, no matter who wins. I’d be excited if it actually resulted in a significant improvement. But history and Romney’s own campaign promises tell us that this remains an open question at best, and is by no means a certainty.
Think about it: If Mitt Romney wins—and government and the debt actually did become smaller—this would be the first time this has happened in my lifetime. Romney will have accomplished something even Reagan couldn’t.
I want Obama to lose, badly. But I also want someone who is better than the last guy, eventually.