Talk about an image problem. But maybe the image sums up the man. I have opined here that in many things it appears that President Obama lacks a there there. My definition is a gut instinct about the right thing to do that allows a leader lead. Now granted many of the problems that face him are complex and actions have unintended consequences (blow back) so careful consideration is not a bad thing. But what we get is headline after headline of him considering action:
- President Obama is nearing a decision on authorizing airstrikes …
- Obama wants new ISIS war plan ASAP
- Who can forget the wavering over Syria
And that is just today. One gets this image of someone who is looking for a plan, any plan, not someone who knows what the end game should be which then defines the plan. It also paints a giant mural of someone in the reactive mode.
Now this may not be fair, but it is the reality and is 90% of why most Americans have ambivalent feelings about this President. Remember George Bush? Almost everything he was doing was crazy, but he did it with decisiveness and until the war went south, he was loved. Dick Cheney was the master of confidence and we followed him off a cliff.
Certainly our way forward in the Middle East is complex and difficult. Let’s hope that he realizes that the generals are not the best advisors of a way forward. And that in itself is an indication that he seems not to have a sense of the real underlying social makeup of the region that is going to drive the solution, not just the battles. Military strategy should be defined by our political strategy, not the other way around.
This bleeds over into his handling of the economy and pivoting from jobs to the debt when the Republicans changed the conversation. His approach on many issues is to lay out some framework of an idea, and then let Congress fill in the details (assuming Congress works). Now, again that is not a bad strategy if they hate everything you do and if it is their idea, they might support it (turns out they won’t). But again it leaves this giant image of a man who is an arbitrator, not a leader. And America yearns for a leader.
Think about it. On the right who have we seen arise (and go) as leaders. People who put up simple (sometimes moronic) solutions to problems with a sense of self confidence that soars tall buildings with a single bound. Think Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, John McCain, Paul Ryan, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz. All these people have stood up for their ideas when their ideas did not stand up to even cursory examination. But they project confidence so their ideas must be right. There is no there there in what they want to do, but there is there there in their belief we should do them.
For President Obama, I don’t think it is just an image problem, I think that is who he is. There is no way I can reconcile his stance on torture (look forward not back), secrecy, drone strikes, pursuing leakers and harassing the press, his abandonment of progressive economics to buy into the Republican’s debt fear mongering, his “grand bargain”, redacting of the Senate Torture Report, his lack of moral courage regarding the kids on the border, and his aggressive deportation policy so sooth the Republican waters so maybe they can get an immigration deal.
What is missing in all this is a grand principle that defines his policies. He reacts to problems by looking for solutions instead of standing up for a principle that defines a solution and selling it to America so we know where we are going. I guess it is really hard to be the Grand Arbitrator when one side won’t agree to agree. Then you had better have a plan based upon a vision of where we want and need to be. Seen any grand plan for America? Well, we have Paul Ryan’s vision.