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Posted: September 12, 2010 12:30 a.m.

President Obama’s flawed foundation

We all know it happens — people often get confused. They can become overwhelmed and forget who they are and where they came from, allowing outside forces to dictate their actions.

They get caught up — swept away — in themselves or their situation.

They have lost their foundation — or possibly they never had a solid foundation.

President Barack Obama’s speech this past Monday at the Laborfest in Milwaukee, Wis., provided signs of a flawed foundation. Mostly a campaign speech, it focused on praising unions and talking about how government is going to solve our problems, with Obama leading the charge.

His attempt at a personal economic story, "my grandparents taught me early on that a job is about more than just a paycheck," was overshadowed by his reference to shorter lines in airports: "I mean, I’ve got Air Force One now, it’s nice. But I still remember what it was like."

His deviation from his prepared remarks: "They talk about me like a dog. That’s not in my prepared remarks, it’s just — but it’s true."

Sounded like a second-grader whining — not a commander in chief leading. But he digressed again later regarding Republicans, "even on things we usually agree on, they say no. If I said the sky was blue, they say no. If I said fish live in the sea, they’d say no."

This is presidential?

Obama’s promise to keep "fighting every single day, every single hour, every single minute, to turn this economy around and put people back to work" might have been more plausible if he came across as more presidential, or if he placed his faith in God and the American people rather than in government and himself.

Obama has forgotten that it’s not about him — it’s about the American people. Public service is a trust, not a podium or a pulpit.

Instead of providing opportunity in America, Obama wants to provide "guarantees in life. ... That’s what we’re fighting for."

When Obama talked about leaving a legacy for our children — it was not about a legacy of freedom and liberty, but about a legacy of government-funded infrastructure.

When he said: "The choice we face this fall.

Do we want to go back (Republicans)? Or do we want to go forward (Democrats)," it reminded me of President Calvin Coolidge, an often-overlooked president.

He did not serve during a time of conflict, so events did not force him into the spotlight. He did not create conflict, so he did not force himself into the spotlight. Instead, he provided a steady, stable foundation and allowed the American people to succeed.

He was the antithesis of Obama.

His speech in 1926 celebrating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence addressed the idea of progress or regression:

"It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern.

"But that reasoning cannot be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people.

"Those who wish to proceed in that direction cannot lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers."

While in office, Coolidge ran a budget surplus every year (the last president to do so), the average unemployment figure was about 3.3 percent, and the inflation rate was 1 percent. This was accomplished while cutting top tax rates from 73 percent when Warren Harding took office with Coolidge as vice president, to 25 percent when Coolidge’s presidency ended. Additionally, the national debt was one-third less at the end of Coolidge’s term than it had been when he took office.

Coolidge was a champion of the fundamentals of our nation: freedom, liberty, hard work, thrift, economy and perseverance. He believed that the people, not the government, were the basis for our nation’s success. The foundation for his belief in people was his understanding, his faith in God.

Now that’s a strong foundation.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman founded and is chairman of the board of the Learning Makes a Difference Foundation.

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