When asked what posed the greatest challenge to statesmen, Harold Macmillan, the former British prime minister, responded, “Events, my dear boy, events.”
That’s because events tend to throw everybody off their plan. For example, Hurricane Irene ended President Obama’s vacation early. And the hurricane’s steady deterioration upset the plans of news producers who anticipated something more dramatic for their wall-to-wall coverage.
In a similar fashion, Obama and his advisers predicted the economy would do better — much better — than it has, and those predictions were wrong. The president blames events: the European debt crisis, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the political tsunami of the 2010 elections. Some of that is plausible, but the two years of anemic job and economic growth that preceded those events can hardly be blamed on them. An earthquake in Japan didn’t make Obama’s green-jobs initiative a bust, and the euro crisis didn’t render “shovel-ready jobs” a myth. And it’s those failures that have scuttled Obama’s plans for an easy reelection in 2012 and left him and his supporters stunned and shocked.
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