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Op-ed Placement

Obama’s Vacuum of Leadership Creates Opportunities for Congress

Originally Published in Medium on 1/19/16.

President Obama opened his eighth and final State of the Union Address with an admission that “expectations for what I’ll achieve this year are low.” If expectations are low, it’s because Americans have seen nothing in the last seven years to inspire them with any confidence in the administration’s ability to solve real problems.

From his first year in office, Barack Obama made it clear that he did not intend to govern as a leader. He delegated the task of writing his signature piece of legislation, the so-called “Affordable Care Act,” to Congress, while at the same time routinely refusing to negotiate with members of the House and Senate to get things done. Whenever Congress pushes back on an issue, rather than sit down and come up with a solution, the president prefers to retreat to the Oval Office and act unilaterally, in violation of the laws he swore to uphold and defend.

In laying out his goals, Obama lists things that he has actively hindered — for example, claiming to want to limit corporate power while bailout out major banks and signing a reauthorization of cronyist Export-Import Bank into law. In boasting about his past accomplishments, he is forced to rely on half-truths, such as cutting budget deficits from a number he was directly responsible for inflating. For the last seven years, there has been a complete vacuum of leadership in the White House, and it shows.

But as the popular, though untrue, saying goes, the Chinese word for “crisis” also means “opportunity.” Obama’s failure to lead the country out of the economic malaise that has persisted ever since the financial crisis of 2008 leaves Republicans in Congress a great opportunity to pick up the reins and show that they are ready to do the job he can’t.

The House Freedom Caucus — the 40 or so members of the House of Representatives committed to pursuing a bold agenda of fiscal conservatism — agreed to support Paul Ryan as Speaker of the House largely do to his apparent willingness to implement process reforms and allow for more debate on the issues that matter to rank and file Members. Now that the legislative year is underway, the Caucus has made it clear that they won’t be content with anything less.