There's little argument President Obama has been aggressive, bold and willing to take chances in the name of returning our nation to a place of prosperity and security. Recall his stimulus bills, the bailouts, the Affordable Care Act and even the daring mission that took out Osama bin Laden.
But the president also has refused to fail quickly, to be willing to change course when things weren't going as he thought they would -- or should. Instead, without selling them to the American people, he stubbornly held tight to policies and approaches that drove our country into recession and a recovery that has been slower to arrive than a Northland spring.
Unemployment remains high. It stood at 7.8 percent when Obama took office, jumped up over 8 percent the following month and then stayed there for 43 long months until this September when it finally dropped back below 8 percent. But even that seeming success was tempered by the reality that more than 4 million Americans since January 2009 simply had given up looking for work.
Also, under Obama, more Americans went on food stamps (46.6 million Americans in June compared to 31.9 million in January 2009), median family incomes declined from $54,983 to $50,964, the poverty rate jumped from 12.5 percent in 2008 to 15.1 percent by 2011, the national debt went up from $10.6 trillion on Inauguration Day 2009 to more than $16.1 trillion today, and the federal government nearly defaulted. In addition, the annual budget deficit topped $1 trillion each year of the president's term. And Guantanamo Bay remains open and active despite Obama's campaign promise to shut it down.
"Obama has never been the uniting agent of change he promised to be," the Las Vegas Review-Journal opined this month. "His two biggest initiatives, the economic stimulus and his health-care reform law, were rushed through a Democratic Congress without a single Republican vote, and the electorate responded in 2010 by giving Republicans control of the House. Instead of moving to the center, as President Clinton did after the 1994 Republican Revolution, Mr. Obama has dug in his heels. He shares the blame for Washington's gridlock.
"If he won't change course, the country won't, either," the editorial said.
Yes, Obama inherited a declining economy, a pair of expensive foreign wars and Republicans in Congress who shamefully vowed to obstruct rather than work with him. But his party was in the majority in both the Senate and the House his first two years. And, "Other presidents have succeeded even with the other party controlling Capitol Hill," as the Orlando Sentinel pointed out in an editorial this month. "Democrat Bill Clinton presided over an economic boom and balanced the budget working with Republicans. Leaders find a way."
In February 2009, just two months into his presidency, Obama gave a televised interview with NBC News in which he famously -- or infamously for him -- said: "I will be held accountable. ... If I don't have this done in three years then there's going to be a one-term proposition."
On Nov. 6, voters from Northwestern Wisconsin, Northeastern Minnesota and elsewhere across the nation can hold the president accountable. He didn't get it done. The results and numbers make clear Washington is ripe for new leadership and a more-promising direction.
Republican Mitt Romney has had a few stumbles of his own, including his unfortunate "47 percent" and "binders full of women" comments. But such campaign flubs are quickly forgotten and easily overshadowed by the clear message he has put forward: Reviving the economy and putting our nation back on firm financial footing demand to be top priorities.
Romney has a bit of experience and a strong record of leadership with such goals.
After being elected governor in 2002, Romney straightened out Massachusetts. He made tough decisions to rein in spending, restructured and consolidated government programs to emphasize efficiencies and to eliminate waste. He got government out of the way of small businesses, signed job-creating incentives, lowered unemployment from 5.6 percent to 4.7 percent and eliminated a $3 billion deficit. Impressively, he did the latter without borrowing or raising taxes. Even more impressively, he did all of it while working with a state legislature controlled by Democrats. American voters can ask him to continue to reach across the aisle to similarly move our nation forward.
Far from a career politician, Romney is a successful businessman. His wealth was earned, the result of smart and savvy investments and decisions that can translate to executive decisions. His thorough understanding of the economy comes from a life spent largely in the private
In 1999, Romney tapped his business know-how to save the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. A showpiece event for our nation, the Olympics were marred by scandal, its sponsors were abandoning ship and its debts were mounting. Romney calmly and quickly (at the speed of business rather than the speed of government) brought together key players, appointed new leadership, tightened spending and staged one of the most successful games ever held in the U.S.
Looking forward, Romney's plan to bolster the middle class and reinvigorate the U.S. economy encouragingly includes tax reductions, less government spending and the elimination of unnecessary regulations that hamper job creation. He wants to give states more control, realizing the best solutions come from the local level. That's in stark contrast to Obama's top-down style of governing.
Romney faces a learning curve with regard to foreign policy, but so did Obama and other presidents. Romney's performance in Monday's final presidential debate left little doubt, though, that he has a firm grasp on global realities. Americans were reassured a Romney administration would deal with our enemies thoughtfully and with understanding, but also with strength.
Can Romney get the job done? If he doesn't, voters can hold him accountable -- and can cast their ballots in 2016 to bring about a second straight one-term proposition.