Campus is abuzz with the news that President Barack Obama will give a speech in Alumni Park on Friday to support Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, who is also expected to make an appearance, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Certainly, it is an exciting prospect. No matter your political inclinations, the opportunity to see a sitting president speak is a rare privilege.
Having Obama on campus will be great publicity for USC and is sure to help USC President C.L. Max Nikias’ ambitious fundraising goals. For the large number of students who support Obama, Friday will be all the more memorable.
However, the fact that Obama has to travel to Los Angeles to make a speech in front of Doheney Library is a sad reflection on American politics.
The president is busy, to say the least. He is overseeing two wars, working on education reform, managing a record federal deficit and dealing with high unemployment, among other things.
On top of these, there are many important issues for which the president does not even have time to give serious consideration, such as immigration reform. The bottom line is that the president only has so much time to advance his agenda, and it is important for the country that he allocates that time judiciously.
Unfortunately, Obama has been spending the majority of his time lately campaigning for democratic hopefuls and incumbents in an attempt to shore up his party’s tenuous position.
As part of a national tour, the President recently held his biggest rally since the inauguration in Ohio where he boosted democratic support. The speech at USC will be part of a four-day tour of the Western United States.
The White House has made a calculated decision that Obama’s time will be better spent raising money for his allies than running the country from Washington. The sad part is that they might be right.
Experts from across the political spectrum agree that the Republicans stand to be overwhelmingly successful in November’s elections and that this will make passing any legislation much harder for Democrats. The greater the Republican gain, the worse the gridlock will become.
This is an unfortunate fact, because an even split in Washington is a sign of a fairly moderate electorate. Something is wrong with our system when the more moderate the electorate, the harder it is to pass legislation.
Another unfortunate reality behind Obama’s decision is the elevated position of campaign finances.
The main goal that Democrats accomplish by bringing Obama out to speak on a candidate’s behalf is helping that candidate raise money. Sadly, the campaign finance reform that had so much momentum a decade ago — and could subsequently have removed the need for this campaigning — was never passed.
If rules were put in place to limit the amount that candidates can spend on elections as well as regulate donations and Political Action Committees more thoroughly, incumbents would spend less time campaigning and more time actually doing their jobs.
Moreover, campaign finance reform would reduce the influence of special interest groups in Washington by taking away their greatest source of leverage.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem likely to occur anytime in the near future.
Ultimately, Obama’s excessive campaigning is a sad reflection on his performance so far. Many Americans are disappointed with his handling of the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and healthcare. Obama has not used his political capital wisely, and now his party is paying the price.
This is particularly depressing for those of us who saw the promise of a new direction and better future in Obama. The campaign that was founded on hope and change has transformed into a presidency that has failed to deliver on those same messages.
Obama has not mishandled the economy or even the wars — instead, he was handed a near-impossible situation on numerous fronts the moment he stepped into office.
Anyone who was surprised at his healthcare initiative, for instance, was clearly not paying attention to what he actually said during the campaign.
However, Obama’s failure to communicate with Americans, handle the news media and consistently strike an optimistic tone is both surprising and disappointing given how well he did all of that during the campaign.
Now, the president is forced to try to make up for it by making guest appearances at other campaigns.
His speech on Friday will probably be reminiscent of his campaign: stirring, hopeful and ultimately uplifting.
Unfortunately, Obama seems not to have mastered those same qualities in communication off the campaign trail — a trail he will continue to be familiar with until he does so.
Daniel Charnoff is a senior majoring in international relations (global business). His column, “Through the Static,” runs Wednesdays.