John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Obama in Ireland

Posted on June 17, 2013

It’s good that the President and the First Family traveled to Ireland, and all of these news reports that make a federal case out of the cost are missing the point.

It is safe to say that Mr. Obama would have never made it to the White House if it weren’t for two prominent Irish Americans.

Ted Kennedy gave the Illinois Senator the critical boost he needed when he endorsed him for President.   And Richie Daley, the iconic Mayor of Chicago, gave the former community organizer the backing of his machine and its critical resources to help first get to the Senate and then make the leap to bigger things.

The President hired the Mayor’s brother to be his second chief of staff, but Bill Daley didn’t last very long in the role.  He didn’t understand at first that the real power behind the throne was Valerie Jarrett, and once he figured that out, he decided to go back to Chicago.

Mr. Obama is no dummy.  He decided to make drinking a key component of the campaign to beat Mitt Romney, and he used the famous Irish Pub, The Dubliner to drive that point home by having a pint or two on St. Patrick’s Day.

Romney once famously said that he sipped a beer once, but didn’t like the taste.  Somebody should have advised him that the more you drink, the better it tastes, but apparently, nobody drinks in his inner circle, which tells you a lot about his campaign.

Mr. Obama first visited Ireland as President in 2011.  The President’s people shot more than few pictures of him gulping a Guinness.  In case you have never been in Ireland, they have an ad campaign with the tag line:  “Guinness Is Good For You.”   Unlike Obamacare.

The Irish have been through a lot over the last four years.  They got sucked into the over-exuberance of the global economy and ended owing a bunch of German bankers a bunch of money when it became clear that their housing sector was collapsing.  They didn’t have to bail out their banks and pay back the Deutsch bank.  They could have stiffed them and refused to back the AIB and the Bank of Ireland.  But they practiced responsible finance and they absorbed huge debts and for the last half decade, they have had a government austerity program that would make the Ryan budget look like the welfare state.

What they didn’t do is raise corporate tax rates, and as a result, global businesses have continued to flock to the Erin Isle.  The green of Ireland often means billions more in corporate profits for companies such as Apple, and that encourage those companies to keep investing there.

As a result, Ireland in bouncing back faster than other European countries that have had a terrible time dealing with the Fiscal Panic of 2009.    They are in a stronger fiscal position and they are still the best place in Europe to do business, especially if you are an American company.

It’s also probably a good place to buy some real estate, if you are in the market for that kind of thing.

The Irish used to be pre-occupied with the “Troubles”, the enduring conflict between Protestants and Catholics.  Keeping the peace, of course, is still a concern, and the more difficult the economic troubles become, the more religious hostilities will continue to rise.  But so far (knock on wood), the peace still holds between the two communities, and with more American investment, that peace had more than a fighting chance to stay in place.

Outside of the economy, the Irish also have a stake in immigration reform.  It is not surprise that Paul Ryan (who was honored by the American Ireland Fund in Washington DC two years ago), is working hard to pass a comprehensive bill.  If you are of Irish descent and you don’t support immigration reform, you are a hypocrite, pure and simple.  Irish Americans should have no business pulling up the ladder behind them.  America has given a life-line to millions of Irishman and women over the years.  To then say that nobody else deserves a chance to gain the American dream would be terrible.

For the Irish in Ireland, they too have a small if pedestrian concern that impacts their immigrants.  There are thousand of undocumented Irish who have been hanging out in Irish pubs in America for decades and they haven’t had an opportunity to get citizenship.  They ought to get that chance.  At least, that’s the view of the Irish government.

I imagine Enda Kenney will bring that up with the President, if they get a chance to talk over a pint of porter.  Let’s hope they do.

President Obama has some Irish blood in him.  I guess that’s where he gets the gift of gab.    He also has some reason to thank Irish America for getting him to the White House.