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Mid-Term Disaster. Obama Fails The Leadership Test.

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President Obama is a really smart guy, so he probably hasn’t failed many tests. But when it comes to understanding the American People, he flunked big time, precisely because he’s such a pointy head.

America is a nation in the midst of a historical watershed. For the first time since its rise as a world power just under a century ago, it’s beginning to doubt its manifest destiny. So it’s not surprising that the quiet hand-holding the studious Obama was offering the angst-ridden patient wasn’t quite enough. America desperately needed leadership from its Commander-in-Chief, but instead got studied neutrality, and appeals for calm from its policy wonk-in-chief.

Take the “Tea Party”, for example. It’s an inchoate movement coalesced from the inchoate anger of a big swathe of an inchoate electorate. In exit polls in the mid-terms, 4 of ten voters expressed an affinity for this fuzzy, angry movement. But if it isn’t a classic cry for help I don’t know what is, a lurching, restive filling of the void left by a lack of Presidential leadership. Of course, 90% of Tea Party supporters hate Obama for a whole litany of bizarre reasons, but it did its work, exporting ripples of that anger to a receptive and unsettled center that didn’t have a President to look up to and say. No, these Tea Party guys are crazy, The President’s got us covered.

President Obama tried to appease the right, with his feeble talk of bi-partisanship, and in the process built himself a nice lose-lose-lose situation. The right were never going to embrace him, so he looked spurned and weak. The Center didn’t want weakness, they wanted leadership, and the left were disappointed by his constant attempts to appeal to the reason of the right, when all along it was patently obvious they were utterly reptilian in their motivations.

To make matters worse, by rising above the partisan “fray” (whatever that is), Obama decoupled himself from the Democratic Party in Congress and on the streets. He seemed distant from the base, and lost his cache. When he finally began to stump for some candidates a few weeks ago, he was already damaged goods, rather than being the campaigning powerhouse that won a historic victory in ’08. Bad leadership. Bad politics.

As for the signature reforms that Obama points to, all three bore the hallmarks of spinelessness. A kid trading Pokemon cards is a better negotiator than the President. He rightly knew full well that he only had a small window to get stuff done, but instead of committing his huge political capital from the get go, he dealt it away in small bids, and watched it evaporate.

Political capital has a sell-by date. If you don’t use it, you lose it.

Obama let the deficit hawks define our stimulus needs and came in with a low-ball figure rather than forcing the last Republican Moderates to negotiate him down from a higher position. On health care, he made a deal with the insurers BEFORE making his initial position clear only, and only doing that after the meltdown in Massachusetts, and once Baucus and the mini-state Blue Dogs had ground the core thrust of the reform into dust. It always smelled like a deal. And in the case of Wall Street reform, he was deeply influenced by an economic team in thrall to Wall Street. Instead of declaring open warfare on the Street and publicly ditching the Wall Street Cash in his campaign coffers, he said that Lloyd Blankfein was a ‘good businessman’. The people felt cheated and got angry. The GOP took advantage of that, and the Democrats in Congress got blamed for Obama’s weakness. Not surprisingly, Wall Street got the toothless reform it was after.

The American People wanted Wall Street’s collective head on a plate for causing the hardhship they faced. And they wanted its good friend China, new home of millions of American jobs, to get it too. But Obama instead doffed his cap and paid Hoover-like fealty to his supposed masters and let Chinese leaders obfuscate their clear-cut currency manipulation, thinking that he could finesse a result out of it. Everyone instinctively knows you can’t out-finesse Beijing. Obama got played, and the American people got stiffed yet again.

Then there’s the issue of Obama’s deliberate approach. Taking stock is a crock. Leadership is about being decisive. And the defining moment in Obama displaying the diametrical opposite was his pathetic approach to the War in Afghanistan. He took months to state a position which was so ill-defined and poorly thought-out in every respect as to be laughable. It was clearly a product of hesitation and fear, adding to the building sense about the President that he lacked guts at just about every turn. A true leader would have stood up and said in a matter of days, this is what we’re going to do, and I don’t give a rats ass what you think. Americans are funny. Even people who hated his decision would have respected the man, and over time would have given him the benefit of the doubt. He simply didn’t understand what leadership means.

In his press conference today, Obama glumly pondered that perhaps he was too often holed up in the White House. Damn straight he was. The guy was great on the road in ’08, he should have been out there, talking to the American people about their economic problems for weeks on end. I wrote a year ago that he should have dumped the White House entirely, avoided Washington, lived out of Air Force One and visited city after city touring the country and listening to the people. The people would have loved him for it.  He’s the President. He has a Blackberry. He can do business anywhere. But he didn’t. No imagination. No leadership.

And so here we are, looking at two years of gridlock, and a badly weakened administration that began with such hope and could be destined for absolute failure. The only consolation is that the Republican Party’s success foreshadows its demise. It’s utterly bankrupt, and can only win with the help of the worst economy since the Depression, wads of cash from anonymous sources, the apathy of the new electorate, and by co-opting a Tea Party movement that spells its own doom, once it gets frustrated and splits into a third party.

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Written by coolrebel

November 3, 2010 at 5:35 am

Posted in Washington

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