Wednesday, November 09, 2011

If Only There Were A Button For That

This afternoon, the federal government will conduct a first-ever nationwide emergency notification drill by sending a single EAS Activation message directly from the White House to every television and radio in the country at the same time.

The purpose of the test is to assess the President’s ability to communicate with the entire nation during a time of national emergency and to thereby lead us out of crisis.

We think it’s very reassuring to know that there’s essentially a button in the White House that the President could push if things ever get really, really bad.

But, cynically, we wonder why there isn’t a similar button in the White House for times when things are… well… just pretty bad.

For example, shouldn’t there have been some sort of alarm sounded when we learned in October, 2009 that one in ten Americans was unemployed -- the highest that rate has been in a long time? All we heard was radio silence.

Wasn’t it a crisis when our national debt hit $12 trillion… or $13 trillion… or $14 trillion? We didn’t see any response.

Didn’t anyone want to hit some sort of button when the bottom fell out of the housing market? How about when foreclosures and bankruptcies skyrocketed? No one stopped it.

Sure, we know it’s apples and oranges. It’s not like the President lives in some Staples commercial where he has a magic button to press which magically fixes problems.

Yet, at some level, this is what the 2012 elections are all about.

Basically, America sent Barack Obama to the White House back in 2008 to fix things, most notably the economy. Now, in the present day, Americans are disappointed because President Obama failed. The nature of the failure is important: President Obama didn’t just fail to fix problems, the problems actually got a lot worse during his term while he made no perceivable effort to remedy them.

America sent Barack Obama to the White House to hit the button for them. He didn’t.

In 2012, Barack Obama is accountable for all of these problems as the incumbent. As Harry Truman said, when it comes to the presidency, “The buck stops here.” Even if people believe that a previous administration, or Congress, or greedy corporate robber barons, or just an unfortunate turn of events worldwide are to blame for our ills, as Americans we typically hold our president chiefly accountable for problems we face as a nation.

So, when he hits that emergency button later today, maybe President Obama should stop and think about how quickly he needs to get his act together and figure out what button he needs to press to start fixing things. After all, in less than 60 days, Americans are going to start pushing buttons and pulling levers of their own -- at the voting booth -- in an effort to find someone to replace him. Someone who really knows what button to press when things go wrong.