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Updated on January 22, 2013

Campaign 2012


After watching delegates at the DNC stumble and bumble, trying to come up with a slogan for President Obama’s campaign for Jon Stewart’s cronies, the above mantra popped into my head. Perfect for the two car family; car #1 bumper sticker- We Suck Less-Obama/Biden 2012; car #2- They Suck More. Succinct, and more importantly, at least an attempt to be honest with the voters. The President’s current rallying cry, FORWARD!, might be better framed as, UP!, as in up from poverty, unemployment and underemployment. On the flip side, Romney’s WE BUILD IT!, should add, ON THE BACKS OF THE WORKING CLASS!

The main problem is that no matter how hard both parties attempt to put a positive spin on their campaigns, there is little to be enthusiastic about. For President Obama, the facts are unbearably grim: 1 out of 7 Americans living in poverty; 1 out of 4 children below the poverty line; 50 million people on food stamps (the highest number ever); 20-25 million people unemployed or underemployed. A national disgrace of epic proportions, especially stat #2 about children. The President tends to preface any remarks about the ailing economy with how he inherited the Great Recession, which is true enough. If you are going to claim, however, to being president during extraordinary times, than you must take extraordinary action and make extraordinary sacrifices to effectively lead the nation. This Barack Obama has not done.

There are examples from several of his illustrious predecessors that Obama may have followed. When given command of the Continental Army at the beginning of the American Revolution, George Washington refused to accept a salary. He only asked that Congress reimburse him at the end of the war for any expenses he incurred. Washington laid out $65,000 of his own money (over $1 million today) to be shot at and possibly hung if captured by the British. He kept such meticulous records that after the conflict concluded, Congress found George had short-changed himself 1 dollar, which was added to his pay-out. Obama froze his salary, but that is not really a huge sacrifice for someone already a millionaire. 99% of the people would gladly sign-up for a guaranteed salary of $400,000 for 4 years in this economy. Washington, as well, did not get to see his home at Mount Vernon for the first six years of the war, and only stopped there for a short visit as the army made its way to Yorktown in 1781.

The president also likes to mention that the country was involved in two wars when he took office. Another statement that is hard to quibble with. He has even visited the troops in Afghanistan. On the other hand, compare how Obama has treated his duties as Commander-in-Chief during wartime to Abraham Lincoln’s for the Civil War. In the four years of that great struggle, Lincoln did not take a single vacation. In fact, besides visiting troops at the front, he only left Washington three times throughout the entire war: once to confer with military legend Winfield Scott at West Point; second, to deliver his famous address at Gettysburg; lastly to open the Great American Fair in Philadelphia. I know the Iraq and Afghan wars do not rate with the Civil War, but that is beside the point. American soldiers are in harm’s way everyday, dodging bullets, trying to avoid roadside and suicide bombers. It cannot inspire the troops when they hear their leader is vacationing in Hawaii or playing golf innumerable times. This is not say the president can never have a day off, but you are only in office for 4 years, 8 years at most. Obama has the rest of his life to go on vacation. If you are going to list war as a hardship of your presidency, you must share in the sacrifices of the men and women in uniform.

Lastly, how many times have we heard, “I became president during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” Yes, you did. “What the country needs is bold experimentation like under FDR.” Yes, it does. Have we gotten that boldness? No, we have not. One of the first steps FDR took upon becoming president in 1933 was to cut all government salaries by 15%, including his own. Not a great loss for the wealthy Roosevelt, but his sacrifice came from being in politics at all after contracting polio in 1921. The pay cut was a big hit for most government workers, but they still had jobs, while ¼ of their fellow citizens did not at the time. It showed that Washington could sacrifice during a period of severe economic distress. Has the current administration done anything comparable? The biggest distinction between FDR and Obama is that Roosevelt put millions to work through the famous job programs like the WPA and CCC. Having work, though the salaries were small, allowed people to survive and gave hope that things would get better down the road. Can anyone name a single job program started by the Obama Administration? Today, unemployed benefits have been extended, but when they run out, people join the shadowy world of the underemployed or those who drop off the statistics charts because they have given up looking for work. 8% unemployment? The true figure is probably much higher.

The president’s Republican challenger is nothing to get excited about either. It is difficult to take seriously a candidate who is running on something he clearly is not. Mitt Romney is as much a conservative Republican as John McCain was in 2008. They are both moderate Republicans (akin to having the plague it seems in the GOP today). Romney’s attempt to transform himself into the conservative standard-bearer has been less than convincing, and led him to say some very dumb things in an effort to impress the far right. This sorry Jekyll and Hyde spectacle makes you wonder sometimes just who is running for president. Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up. The Mittanator, business champion and vanquisher of sinking companies, is also slightly vague on how he would create jobs, while constantly reminding everyone how the president has failed to do so. Overall, pretty slim pickings at the ballot box in November.

Which brings me back to my campaign slogan. Not only impressive on bumper stickers and buttons, but for chanting at rallies. Just imagine one side of the crowd yelling, “We suck less!”, while the other side responded, “They suck more!” Reality would return to American politics.


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