Senator Grades President’S First Year In Office

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When President Obama took office, he promised to launch a new era of fiscal responsibility, bipartisanship, and transparency at home, and to improve America’s standing abroad.

That message appealed to the American people. In the earliest days of his administration, the president enjoyed high approval ratings and widespread support.

But a year later, the president has not delivered on his promises, and the American people have noticed. The president’s approval ratings have dropped. In the recent Massachusetts Senate race, voters rallied around the candidate who campaigned against the record spending and debt that has occurred under this administration.

Indeed, government spending grew by $705 billion in fiscal year 2009 — a whopping 24 percent increase from 2008. The 2009 deficit — the gap between revenues and spending — is the highest in history, at $1.4 trillion. The total debt has reached a staggering sum of roughly $12 trillion.

President Obama said earlier this year that “We can’t keep on just borrowing from China.”

That’s true. So, why does the president continue to advocate spending money that we don’t have and will have to borrow? His 10-year budget doubles the deficit in five years and triples it in 10. More borrowing and new deficit spending does not measure up to the president’s campaign pledge for fiscal responsibility.

The president has also failed to keep promises on foreign policy.

What has been the strategy for boosting America’s standing abroad? He has gone on an apology tour, the fundamental consequence of which, in the words of columnist Charles Krauthammer, has been “to effectively undermine any claim America might have to world leadership.”

And while the president has devoted much energy to improving relations with our adversaries, his administration has mistreated several key U.S. partners.

On national security, the president’s decision to give civilian trials to several terrorists is wrong. These men are enemy combatants and the war against al Qaeda is just that. It’s not a law enforcement matter, and should not be treated as one.

There’s an important connection between U.S. policies at home and U.S. strategy abroad. While domestic policy is not written to influence foreign policy, it affects what we can spend on defense and security.

President Obama recently acknowledged the relationship between U.S. economic strength and U.S. global leadership, when he said, “Our prosperity provides a foundation for our power. It pays for our military. It underwrites our diplomacy.”

But massive amounts of new spending, new taxes, and European-style government programs will weaken our economy and make it more difficult for us to exercise military leadership.

Just look at what happened last year: While $1.2 trillion was spent in the stimulus bill and Democrats in the Senate passed a $2.5 trillion government takeover of health care, the defense budget was practically frozen.

So, there’s a tipping point at which excessive social spending chokes economic growth and weakens military power.

European nations can get by with relatively low levels of defense spending and high social spending because, for decades, they have enjoyed the protection of America’s security umbrella.

Military decline is not an option for the United States. As former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright put it, we are “the indispensable nation.”

That’s what American exceptionalism means. It means that, because of our unique history, our unique power, and the unique appeal of our founding principles, America plays a special role in global affairs.

I hope that during the year ahead, the administration will pursue a more sensible and responsible course so that America can continue this special role.

Sen. Jon Kyl is the Senate Republican Whip and serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees. Visit his Web site at www.kyl.senate.gov or his YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/senjonkyl.

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