Several years ago I heard a phrase that has stayed with me: "Any fool can point at the leak and tell you the dam is cracked. A leader has a plan to fix it."
Over the past 30 months it has become apparent to everyone — even the President — that we have some very serious cracks in our dam: the annual deficit has doubled since President Obama took over; the national debt is now equal to GDP; the total liabilities of the US government — from the locals to the feds — exceeds $120 trillion; the job market is stagnant, with the highest sustained unemployment since the Great Depression; and for the first time a majority of American parents fear their kids will inherit a nation worse off than the one they inherited.
Oh, and last week S&P downgraded our debt.
And while some in Washington may act shocked and dismayed, the rest of us didn't need Standard and Poor's to tell us we are dysfunctional — we see it on display in our nation's capital as plain as day.
We see it when the Senate fails to pass a budget for over 800 days — and thinks this is just fine.
We see it in the murky Washington logic that savages Paul Ryan for having the audacity to propose an actual plan — a plan that the S&P stated would have stopped the downgrade, by the way.
And we see it most starkly of all in a President who's leadership style is best described — by his own Press Secretary — as "leading from behind."
So the cracks are evident; what have been so elusive are solutions.
You see solutions require a leader to propose and implement. It requires someone willing to do what must be done, even if politically unpopular. And it takes someone with the will to actually get it done.
Bluntly, in addition to all our other problems, we simply do not have that type of leader right now.
Remember when the President's sycophants were claiming he'd be a new Lincoln? They were off by one President — Obama isn't the new #16, he is old #15. Obama is the new Buchanan.
Buchanan, unfortunately for us Keystone staters, is Pennsylvania's only President and, until now, hands down the worst President in the history of the Union. He bears this distinction because he steadfastly refused to act boldly while the issue of slavery tore the Union apart. It was clear to all that the issue had come to a head — Buchanan failed to lead because he wasn't up to it. It took Lincoln to save us.
Like the people in 1859, we now know that the current man in the big house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not up to the task of leading. From his earliest days in office — when he punted the structure of the doomed stimulus to spendthrift Democratic congressional leaders drooling over all that pork — to the present debate over the debt limit, President Obama has refused time and again to actually propose substantial plans.
But this is no surprise — actual solutions are not this President's forte; assigning blame is. Standing with the fools pointing at the broken dam, President Obama's interest appears to be in explaining how the cracks got there rather than fixing them — especially to make sure we all know HE didn't break the dam.
In fact, in the 30+ months since he took office, blaming others for our problems is about all he has done. The economy? Bush left it worse than I expected, he claims. The deficit? Bush spent so much I have to spend more to fix it. The debt? Hey, that was here before I got here. Unemployment? The GOP cut funding to Government jobs I wanted to create. The Downgrade? The Tea Party did it.
For a guy who says "I" every few words, you would think the phrase "I screwed up" might slip out once — but don't hold your breath.
No, the Blamer-in-Chief is more interested in shifting fault than leading. More pointedly, after repeated failures, it is now clear he is incapable of leadership on tough issues. This deficiency is especially relevant as we are trapped in this summer of leadership discontent. And the energy BOTH sides waste affixing blame is energy wasted in the context of a crisis. Washington, DC seems to forget that who is to blame is a politician's issue; solutions are a citizen's concern.
Unfortunately, with such a president, solutions will prove elusive in the coming months — especially when its apparent that the only job the President is truly concerned about "creating or saving" is his own.
I'm Scott Paterno, and that is the uncomfortable truth.
And this is the shameless plug. If you like — or hate — what you hear (or read) and want to let me know, I have joined the mass of fools pointing at the cracks in the dam on twitter. You can offer your solutions (or berate me, if that's your bag) @scottpaterno — all one word.