Five years into the Obama presidency (the only Democrat I ever voted for), I have concluded the President is a great politician and a leadership disappointment.
JFK and Reagan were great politicians and strong leaders. Barack Obama? A man who tries to hide his inability to lead and his timidity, behind a physical and metaphorical teleprompter.
While his Jujitsu move, forcing a do-nothing Congress to act on Syria is great partisan politics, he nonetheless continues to abdicate his responsibilities to lead the nation by any form of an economic and foreign policy vision.
What does the President believe in?
As an aside, do you know what my African American friends call him? Bush III and IV.
The Great Depression? No FDR moment. Just a stimulus plan that was half of what an ailing economy needed. Why only $700 billion? Because he thought that number would not scare the people and Congress. No economic liberalism. Just a watered down ideology of finding a common denominator. A common economic denominator that makes his economic policies not palatable to his base, while finding no right-wing support.
Who is Barack Obama? We don't know. And that's a problem.
The Middle East? What is the Obama doctrine? Just soaring rhetoric in Cairo. Signaling to its people he supports democratic aspirations. But in practice a seesaw in Egypt and a neglect of the Syrian civil war.
Health care reform? No stated position; just an abdication to Congress to work out the details. Leading people to mock him by calling it ObamaCare.
Drone strikes? Faceless military attacks without transparency and seemingly no blood on his hands.
Banking reform? Another feckless tactic where he calls out TBTF banks only to not sign legislation to harm them in any significant way. Only ending in anti-TBTF voters being disappointed, and TBTF bankers not supporting him.
A man of the people and his race? Hardly. He dresses like he stole John Boehner's closet and vacations in Nantucket.
A great communicator? Maybe in front of thousands that support him. But never once an Oval Office speech talking to all Americans.
A great leader would enter our living rooms, state his positions (we elected him as our leader), and sell his domestic and foreign policy objectives. That's why we elect presidents. JFK and Reagan didn't hide from the camera. JFK and Reagan didn't tell some of us what we wanted to hear. They got in front of the camera, and told their supporters and detractors, their plans. They led from the front. Obama tries to lead from behind by using the press and congressional surrogates.
The use of chemical weapons in Syria was a presidential moment. He never articulated any strategy before nor after. Whether his strategy was making no decision and explaining why, he set a red line and didn't lead the country nor the world though his vision.
Why? It is this writer's belief that Obama, has no position of his own. Hence there is nothing there to explain. He is not proactive. That takes long-held beliefs. Instead he is reactive because he has no long-held beliefs.
We elected a Rorschach president. Someone we projected our own beliefs upon. Only for his base to become disenchanted and his enemies to become emboldened.
Leadership requires having a belief-system compass. We knew what JFK and Reagan's compass were. Both were not popular at the beginning of their presidencies. But they both became father-figures and gained popularity by the strength of their convictions. Obama? No such conviction. Only dithering, soaring rhetoric and looking the part in his presidential suits.
Syria, has exposed these traits of Obama, to the country, the world and to himself.
He must know this. He must know his presidency is essentially over because he has become a lame-duck so early in his second term.
To be fair, the opposing party, has no pure strain of ideology. It is filled with aging RINOs, anti-federal spenders and war hawks to his right and isolationists to his left. But that is exactly what every president must face. Congressional dysfunction doesn't come from nowhere. It comes from a political vacuum from a lack of presidential leadership.
FDR faced the same during the Great Depression. But he had a compass and spoke to all voters. And his detractors were neutralized. JFK had a compass and spoke to all voters. By 1963 his detractors were neutralized. Reagan had a compass and spoke to all voters. His detractors ending up voting for his programs because he was respected and was popular.
Presidential leadership is meant to bend the political curve. Its what makes the executive position of the presidency so special. Obama never bending the political curve. He has never used his special position wisely.
The result, is not just a Syrian decision abdication, but a failed presidency. If that wasn't crystal clear before, it is most certainly a proper label now.
September 3, 2013