Obama falls headfirst into the hypocrisy trap 

President Obama is caught in the wickedest of political binds: the hypocrisy trap.

Obama says he's sick and tired of the Washington blame game, but still can't resist doling out piles of blame himself.

His compulsive, reflexive finger-pointing at Republicans, George W. Bush and vague villains on the right is not only unbecoming, it also reinforces the gathering public verdict that Obama is a weakling.

Victims do not make good leaders.

Even if Republicans were responsible for every evil attributed to them by Democrats, why bang on about it after 17 months in office? The only answer is self-preservation, which is an unattractive trait in someone who's supposed to be leader.

But because he is stuck in a defensive crouch on the BP spill, the economy, Afghanistan, Israel, the bungling political maneuvers of his operatives, and more, Obama has no alternative but to play the blame game.

In one day in Kalamazoo, Mich., he managed to preach responsibility and try to avoid it.

In a speech to high schoolers he said: "Don't make excuses. Take responsibility not just for your successes. Take responsibility where you fall short as well."

While still in Kalamazoo, Obama sat down with NBC's Matt Lauer for the journalistic equivalent of heavy petting and blamed everybody but himself.

The interview is already famous for Obama's line about relying on experts to tell him whose "ass to kick." The line is funny because what was supposed to be proof of his red-blooded American anger came off as clueless. What kind of leader needs advice on ass kicking?

But it was also notable that Obama declined to take any responsibility whatsoever for the disaster or the damage. He abandoned even his partial blame-taking lines from the May 28 press conference about failing to understand the depth of the problems at the Minerals Management Service.

The message in Kalamazoo: Do as I say, not as I do.

That tripped America's hair-trigger hypocrisy alarm.

Bloodthirsty reporters and cynical citizens roar their approval when family-values Republicans get caught trysting with their aides or Democrats who rail against the evils of Wall Street and Big Oil rake in campaign contributions from Goldman Sachs and BP.

Until now, Obama has avoided the hypocrisy trap by doing little and talking carefully. Most of what he's said contains more rhetorical escape hatches than a magician's box.

Obama may be coming in short on his promises on Iraq, Gitmo, Wall Street and a host of other issues -- to the howling discontent of the liberals who got him elected -- but he can still offer earnest assurances that he's reinventing America, only it's taking longer than he expected.

The president is facing frustrated liberals who see George W. Bush's wars still being fought, Gitmo open for business and Wall Street getting off the hook.

Environmentalists fume that he authorized more offshore drilling without checking to see if federal regulators were doing their jobs.

Fiscal conservatives who divined a streak of moderation in Obama's rhetoric feel like fools after watching him take a $9 trillion detour on his way to fiscal responsibility.

Pragmatists have turned their backs on the president after finding that the last, best argument that Democrats made in 2008 -- Obama's competency under pressure -- was actually decision-making paralysis masquerading as coolness.

So it's understandable that the president has been in a bit of a rhetorical stall of late.

He has been unable to adapt to a political climate wholly different than the one that made his rapid ascendance possible, and as a result has sounded increasingly off-key.

Polls show that Americans have noticed. While his overall approval ratings have held during the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, we've seen a telling drop in the number of Americans who think Obama relates to them and their concerns.

Obama's preacher's cadence and promise of a better tomorrow now reinforces his image as a talker and not a doer.

The self-contradictions, though, are even worse.

When he contradicts himself on partisanship and blame gaming, Obama gives off the scent of hypocrisy, the sweetest flower that blooms in the cynic's garden.

It's one thing to be seen as passive, but it's worse to be seen as someone who will say anything to get what he wants.

Chris Stirewalt is the political editor of The Washington Examiner. He can be reached at cstirewalt@washingtonexaminer.com.

About The Author

Chris Stirewalt


Washington Examiner Political Editor Chris Stirewalt, who coordinates political coverage for the newspaper and ExaminerPolitics.com in addition to writing a twice-weekly column and
regular blog posts.

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