Have you seen the Russell kid from LSU? He can throw the ball 80 yards effortlessly! He threw the ball 70 yards across his body! He threw the ball through the uprights from a seated position from the opposite 40 yard line! This guy has a cannon - no, a missile launcher for an arm! I mean, just look at this!
Such was the ethereal praise for LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell previous to the 2007 NFL draft. The vaunted Mel Kiper of ESPN proclaimed Russell to be "Elway-like." Kiper's crown prince, Todd McShay, described himself as "in awe" of Russell's workouts. However, largely absent from this vast chorus of praise was any discussion of several traits pertinent to successful quarterbacking in the NFL- leadership, knowledge of the game, understanding of defenses, coachability, work ethic, making sound decisions, and throwing accuracy. Bowled over by the singular power of JaMarcus Russell's arm, the Oakland Raiders drafted him number one.
Russell was not impressed with the initial contract offers by the Raiders, so he began missing essential training activities for the team, an absolute disaster for quarterbacks who need to learn the offense and develop a rapport with receivers. The Raiders rewarded him with a $68 million dollar contract, $31.5M of which was guaranteed (a record at the time for rookies). Russell's reluctance did not end there. He consistently slacked off in practice, even when he was named starter in his third season, only to be benched in favor of journeyman Bruce Gradkowski. Despite absolutely no signs of leadership, work ethic, or ability whatsoever to play professional football, commentators still held out hope, still in awe of his powerful arm. By this offseason, previous to what would have been his fourth pro season, JaMarcus had become (in the words of NBC Sports) "incredibly overweight" and was cut by the Raiders, making him the shortest-tenured player taken #1 overall. All of his alleged talent notwithstanding, he finished his time with the Raiders as the statistically worst QB of the decade, fat, universally ridiculed, and thus far, unable to find a job.
Our current President should be so lucky.
The unmitigated praise from countless media outlets began with Newsweek's gushing cover story of Barack Obama subsequent to his famous speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. He transcends right and left! He's post-racial! Even after he secured the Democratic nomination, the praise did not moderate. He'll end politics as usual! He'll turn our enemies into allies! MSNBC host Chris Matthews infamously admitted that when Obama speaks he gets "a tingle up [his] leg." Perhaps the greatest praise came from Obama himself in his victory speech on election night, declaring, "We will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth."
Absent from the tsunami of plaudits was any sort of track record, any proffering of evidence that he possessed these transcendent traits or had any significant impact in achieving these lofty goals. For all of the attention his remarks about the non-existence of red or blue states, he was ranked the most liberal senator in his cameo appearance in that chamber, and voted with his party 97% of the time. We were to trust his "judgment," but we were only offered his opposition to the war in Iraq, previous to his being in the Senate, as an example. As the campaign unfolded, we saw more of his judgment in the company of his controversial associates and mentors, including Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Van Jones, etc. He had no executive experience, unless one counts his leadership of the Harvard Law Review, or as his staff likes to point out, his smooth and successful presidential campaign. Those viewing with clear eyes saw a candidate who was exciting and compelling, but ultimately lacking in what it takes to be a successful president: leadership, skill to gain concessions from opponents, a sense of what the country needs and wants, and the ability to reassure the nation in troubled times.
Fast-forward a year and a half with most recovering from the initial Kool-aid dosing, we have more than ample evidence of the total failure of Obama and his policies. His first major legislative victory, the so-called stimulus package, succeeded only to prop up public sector and trade unions, part of the Democrat base. The administration repeatedly told us that the package would keep unemployment under 8%; it is now at 10%, with the long-term unemployed comprising half that number. Stimulus payments have been rife with fraud and waste, going to non-existent legislative districts and projects that already had funding. Obama's healthcare overhaul has frightened businesses from hiring to avoid huge future health costs. Despite Democrat allegations of reducing health costs while greatly expanding coverage, insurance premiums have skyrocketed and companies are already planning to either pay the fine for not providing coverage or keeping employees under 30 hours a week to render them ineligible.
On the foreign policy front, where the American president has the most direct power, Obama has weakened relationships with allies, ingratiated to questionable foreign leaders, and emboldened enemies. He snubbed then-PM Gordon Brown of the UK, wanting only a photo op with the Queen, who he gave an iPod filled with speeches he gave. Notwithstanding his attempts to woo western hemisphere dictators Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez, they now mock him after some small initial praise. In perhaps this administration's gravest foreign policy error, Obama sided with President Manuel Zelaya, who had been legally removed for attempting to exceed term limits imposed by the constitution of Honduras. And while the President caused much hyperventilation within the American press with his famed Cairo speech, we have not gained any ground in Middle East diplomatic efforts, best exemplified by our continued failure to even partially impede Iran's nuclear ambitions. As Iranians rallied by the tens of thousands in the street protesting rigged elections last year, the Commander-in-Chief expressed his "deep disappointment" with the Iranian government but did nothing of substance to promote democratic reform.
In the final analysis, Barack Obama really has one true skill: the ability to give a great speech.
It's a skill that continues to turn the heads of the media, sycophantic Democrat loyalists, and people who just aren't paying any attention. Aided by his ubiquitous teleprompter, Barack Obama's speeches how the power to stir up a frenzy and dazzle the sympathetic with his intellect - they made voters believe that he could not only remedy the damage inflicted by the preceding administration, but elevate America to Where We Should Truly Be. His speaking is like JaMarcus Russell's ability to throw the football really, really far: it blinds onlookers to the fact that neither of them has the judgment, skills, ability, aptitude, work ethic, or experience to do their jobs well. If America is fortunate, Obama's duration in the Oval Office will exceed Russell's with the Raiders by just a year.