Acting without the facts; A presidential pattern has emerged

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 31, 2009

Syndicated Columnist

Last week, President Obama was almost finished with his nationally broadcast press conference when he was asked to comment on the arrest, and subsequent release, of renowned Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. by the now-famous Cambridge, Mass. police Sgt., Jim Crowley.

In his response to the question, the president started off with a legitimate point for discussion — his concern over the alleged practice of profiling across our nation. Had he stopped there, the matter would most likely have been put to rest and the president and national media could have re-focused on more pressing matters facing our nation such as the economy, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or even the debate on health care. However, the president inexplicably decided to expand his response by saying the Cambridge police acted “stupidly” in their handling of the matter — while admitting that he did not yet have all of the facts at his disposal.

While this certainly turned out to be a significant political blunder, thankfully this particular occasion did not directly impact national policy or international standing. However, the unfortunate truth is that a pattern is emerging — one where President Obama decides to speak in advance of the facts on matters of much greater importance than a mistaken arrest.

First, when it came to the economy and the administration’s prediction that unemployment would stabilize at 8 percent or less, Vice President Biden himself admitted they were in error and that “there was a misreading of just how bad an economy we inherited.”

Despite pumping billions of dollars of “stimulus” money into the economy, unemployment — currently at a 26-year high — continues to rise, and we are left to understand that this administration does not have a solid feel for where the economy is heading and, indeed, never did. Talk about boosting consumer confidence.

The litany continues. Just a few days after assuming office, President Obama again jumped the gun by signing three executive orders relating to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. One order in particular called for the facility’s closure within a year of his signature — by this coming January. Again, after taking full measure of the situation it now appears that this accelerated timeframe is premature and infeasible — causing embarrassment for the administration and casting doubts on our international credibility.

There were plenty of warning and cautions beforehand, but again it seems the president did not take the time to acquire all the facts before making a decision, and now we’re left with prisoners whom no one will accept, and an administration forced — yet again — to admit they’re unsure of how to proceed.

During his campaign, Barack Obama promised all troops would be out of Iraq within 16 months of his assuming office. Barely a month after entering office, the president had already adjusted that plan to end combat missions within 18 months and allow for a complement of 35,000 troops to stay even longer. Yet just this week Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki suggested that the troops may be needed even longer than currently planned.

Most recently, we see the same pattern emerging with his proposed health-care plan, where even Democratic Congressional leaders are trying to rein in President Obama and distance themselves from his timetable, not to mention the details of his plan, as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office releases report after report regarding the deficit increase and economic danger the President’s plan poses. This, of course, sits on top of the CBO’s analysis that the program is also at least a decade away from any savings and would still leave tens of millions of Americans uninsured. It seems to me like that sort of information would have been helpful to have in advance, and thankfully voters are already seeing through the scheme.

It’s not that we, the American people, don’t appreciate the ability to adjust to the reality of circumstances. Indeed, upholding a foolhardy promise would be reckless insult on top of gross error. But is it too much to ask that next time our president get the full information before he rushes towards judgment?

Mike Reagan is chairman and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation ( E-mail comments to