Friday, October 30, 2009

THE FAILING OBAMA PRESIDENCY

I can admit mistakes and misjudgments. Obama is one of them. But I do not suffer from buyer’s remorse. When I imagine a McCain/Palin presidency and administration, I envision one of two scenarios: pandemonium or apocalypse, each attended by moral and political meltdown.

My support of Obama during the presidential campaign praised his “unflappable demeanor, sound judgment, informed intellect, and articulate speech.” I added that “Obama exerts influence like a leader with common-sense policies.” I interpreted these characteristics as indicators of leadership. I was wrong. They are necessary features of a leader but are not sufficient to make a leader. A leader is not someone having a position of leadership or the characteristics of a leader, but behaving like one by making, explaining, executing, and enforcing decisions based on sound reasoning and pursued with steady determination.

I assumed that what a highly educated, legally trained, but street-smart candidate would do in office would reflect his experience at both ends of the socio-economic spectrum and bear some relationship to his “common-sense policies.” I know that many candidates, once elected to office, cannot do everything which they promised to do on the campaign trail. No number of campaign briefings can prepare them for the realities of their positions, with its many limits on their power. Even so, Obama is disappointing.

Obama’s first and biggest mistake has been to lose touch with those who elected him, the members of the middle and lower classes, regardless of their party identification, because they thought that he understood them. An omen: he and his family vacationed with the elites in Martha’s Vineyard, not average citizens in Disney World. No longer does he concern himself with those whom he addressed during his campaign, and they know it. Winning back their trust and support is not likely.

Once a social organizer in the streets, Obama has shown the out-of-touch perspective and adopted the trickle-down approach of the moneyed class which bankrolls American politics. Not only did he save the too-big-too-fail banks before he served the people, but he also saved the wrong banks. His trillion-dollar stimulus package rewarded the very financial institutions which got us into this mess by shuffling paper in Ponzi schemes but which do not invest in businesses providing products and services. He touts a recovery because the financial markets are bullish although the economy remains bearish for just about everyone else, regardless of their employment status.

If Obama had had a citizen’s eye view of the economy, he would have urged a smarter socio-economical stimulus to distribute the same trillion dollars to every taxpayer and dependent. People could have put that $3500 per person to use for necessities, health care, education, mortgages, credit cards—in a word, put money into circulation and help ordinary citizens. The too-big-too-fail banks would have gotten money eventually; more importantly, the smaller banks which make local and regional loans in support of local and regional economies would have gotten money almost immediately.

Obama’s second biggest mistake has been to substitute process for results. There is some, but not all, merit in bipartisanship and in tolerance of people with differences of opinion. But his unwavering commitment to them, in denial of the fact that they are not working, suggests a compulsive desire to operate by committee, avoid controversy, and duck responsibility for decisive action. Thus, this commitment covers his outsider’s desire for approval and popularity at the expense of principle and accomplishment; it also camouflages his weakness because of these vulnerabilities. Everyone now knows that he can be pushed around or rolled; that he lacks the temperament, the executive grit, which accepts the ned to make decisions, however occasionally or reluctantly, which make enemies in order to get something accomplished in Washington.

Obama’s third biggest mistake has been adulterating or abandoning the positions which appealed to many people during his campaign. Not everyone agrees with all of his positions, even those who voted for him, but he probably has majorities or near majorities on most of them: health reform, education reform, global warming, campaign and government reform, reduction of forces in Iraq, renewed commitment to fight terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, shutting Guantanamo, cleaning up executive branch agencies for misconduct, among others. But he is doing little enough on any of these issues.

Most new presidents commit to action, get results, and build political capital by their early accomplishments. Not Obama; he has squandered his opportunities and has almost nothing to show for his presidency after nine months. The first “Hundred Days” metric is not fair, but a 270-days metric is. Now, with less support and diminished respect, Obama is going to find that the going is going to get tougher. He has impressed no one because of large but largely symbolic cuts in over-sized bank executive compensation. He has impressed no one with his attacks on talk-radio hosts; indeed, he has shown himself to be petty and insecure. He has impressed no one, least of all members of his party who find him detached from the debate, on health care reform, perhaps his most ballyhooed cause. If Congress passes any such legislation, however flawed or ineffectual, Obama will sign it, make a speech, and take credit at a photo op. But he will fool no one.

Obama is making himself toast. Faced with little done and much to do, Obama has talked with arrogant self-confidence about what he must defer in his first term but will get accomplished in his second term. But with little or nothing to show for his speechifying and spectatorizing presidency, the chances of his credible campaign and re-election are small. Fortunately, many Democrats can competently challenge their failed president in 2012, and do better against any Republican, who would prefer to run against Obama. No-drama Obama indeed; his one-term presidency will end, not with a bang, but a whimper.

1 comment:

  1. What you saw in Obama, was something refreshing that McCain did not represent.

    Your current anaylsis of Obama is right on. I did not like McCain but I loathe Obama. I just didn't think he was real. Voting for a third party candidate was not in the cards so that left me with McCain as I thought he would be a one term President because of his age.

    As we look back, McCain may have been the correct choice. Obama health care plan is wrong, health care needs reform but who else will get bribed to vote for this plan. Whatever passes, it doesn't do much until 2014 and the new President and I believe a lot of new members replacing Democratic congressmen can reform the Obama health plan. His dithering on Afghanistan were he seems completely lost, his cash for clunkers, his tax breaks for home buyers, in my opinion were all wrong.

    In your remarks about Palin, in your latest blog, to me reminds me of your enthusiasm for Obama.

    Palin is a breath of fresh air. I think you are a little harsh on her, but I can understand your position. Where Obama appears arrogant, Palin is one of us. She is a person that you could have a cup of coffee with and come away that she is just a good person. Of course, her public view is what the media will focus on and will we get to know the “real” Palin.

    I would be surprised if she would be a final candidate in 2012. She may have some influence, but I doubt it. If she maintains her public appeal, then maybe she could bring votes for her party.

    As I look about for a "leader", I can find no one in either party that stands out at the current time.

    You consider yourself a left wing independent whereas I consider myself as a conservative independent. You were a yellow dog democrat and I was a conservative democrat all my life (I did vote for Ike) until Clinton came on the scene. Voted for him the first time but with his Monica adventure, he lost my vote the second time.

    Keep posting your opinions, I may not always agree but they do have a lot of merit and information.

    Hope you had a good thanksgiving,

    Tom Schraad

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