That’s the central theme of a Ken Langone op/ed in the Wall Street Journal. Langone is a co-founder of Home Depot who gives Obama a lecture he’s long deserved. He does a good job of summarizing the absurd rhetoric used by Obama and his administration and the attitude they project that has done nothing to help and everything to hurt the recovery:
Your insistence that your policies are necessary and beneficial to business is utterly at odds with what you and your administration are saying elsewhere. You pick a fight with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, accusing it of using foreign money to influence congressional elections, something the chamber adamantly denies. Your U.S. attorney in New York, Preet Bahrara, compares investment firms to Mexican drug cartels and says he wants the power to wiretap Wall Street when he sees fit. And you drew guffaws of approving laughter with your car-wreck metaphor, recently telling a crowd that those who differ with your approach are "standing up on the road, sipping a Slurpee" while you are "shoving" and "sweating" to fix the broken-down jalopy of state.
That short-sighted wavering—between condescending encouragement one day and hostile disparagement the next—creates uncertainty that, as any investor could tell you, causes economic paralysis. That’s because no one can tell what to expect next.
Again we confront the difference between a politician in a permanent campaign and a leader. And we see the result.
Obama seems mystified by the role of the president. He seems not to understand that leaders don’t use the old, divisive and politically charged rhetoric of the campaign trail, but instead have the job of doing (and saying) what is necessary to move things in a positive direction. That has not been something Obama has done at all when it comes to business.
There’s another point Langone made that is worth featuring:
A little more than 30 years ago, Bernie Marcus, Arthur Blank, Pat Farrah and I got together and founded The Home Depot. Our dream was to create (memo to DNC activists: that’s build, not take or coerce) a new kind of home-improvement center catering to do-it-yourselfers. The concept was to have a wide assortment, a high level of service, and the lowest pricing possible.
We opened the front door in 1979, also a time of severe economic slowdown. Yet today, Home Depot is staffed by more than 325,000 dedicated, well-trained, and highly motivated people offering outstanding service and knowledge to millions of consumers.
If we tried to start Home Depot today, under the kind of onerous regulatory controls that you have advocated, it’s a stone cold certainty that our business would never get off the ground, much less thrive. Rules against providing stock options would have prevented us from incentivizing worthy employees in the start-up phase—never mind the incredibly high cost of regulatory compliance overall and mandatory health insurance. Still worse are the ever-rapacious trial lawyers.
Regulations, taxes, compliance and mandates cost businesses billions each year. That’s billions that aren’t spent on employees, customers, expansion or growth. And it is especially stupid to increase all of those in a recession – yet that’s precisely what is going on now. And it keeps the market unsettled and at least defers or may in fact kill any possible action by businesses which may benefit the overall economy.
Obama’s actions and rhetoric are a case study of someone who doesn’t understand his job, doesn’t understand the power of the words he utters (because he doesn’t understand his job) and has been very irresponsible with his rhetoric at a time when the damage that rhetoric can do are compounded by the situation (recession).
OJT is not something a president should be doing – especially in a recession. And for the supposed “smartest guy in the room”, he sure seems like a slow learner when it comes to his job and the requirements of leadership.
Andrew Sullivan today in a post entitled “Obama’s Lost Narrative”:
Nyhan goes after the Democrats for baseless attacks against the US Chamber of Commerce. It is very depressing to see them descend to this kind of stuff. What they need are not tactics and resentment, which is what we’re seeing. What we need is a narrative of recovery and reform from Obama. He has the record, and he has made a couple of great speeches. But this distracts.
He’s “made a couple of great speeches”. That’s no longer a positive. In fact, most have come to conclude that’s about all he can do. However, on whole, Sullivan is right. He should be more like Reagan than Nixon and he’s letting his inner Nixon show as he pushes this baseless and hypocritical attack on the Chamber of Commerce.
At a time he should be acting like a leader, he’s been reduced to a petty politician. Or maybe that’s what he always was.
My view, and I’ll say it again. Campaign on ending the long-term debt. Campaign on being the man who can bring America together to solve its long-term fiscal crisis. Call the GOP out on its fiscal record and its current refusal to specify what they’ll cut. Remind people of the debt commission. Remind people we need to cut spending and raise taxes. Be the adult in the room. With a megaphone.
To be the “adult in the room”, you have to have been the adult in the room. You can’t suddenly decide now is the time to act like one. Again, an aspect of leadership lost on the current White House occupant.
Mark Halperin has an interesting article in the current TIME. He wonders how Obama got where he is and how he can change that. It is interesting for some of language used. It demonstrates a changing view, even among his supporters, that perhaps – just perhaps – this guy isn’t really up to the job … yet. That last word that sentence is important.
Many of us feel he has never been up to the job. We’ve pretty much been proven to be right. Many have decided after the election that he’s not up to the job. But there is one other category that will sort of, kind of admit he may not seem up to the job, however that’s just a temporary condition. Once he finds his feet again, he’ll do fine. And it that latter category that seems to best fit Halperin.
But his opening two paragraphs are both brutal and true, whether Halperin really believes them totally or not:
Barack Obama is being politically crushed in a vise. From above, by elite opinion about his competence. From below, by mass anger and anxiety over unemployment. And it is too late for him to do anything about this predicament until after November’s elections.
With the exception of core Obama Administration loyalists, most politically engaged elites have reached the same conclusions: the White House is in over its head, isolated, insular, arrogant and clueless about how to get along with or persuade members of Congress, the media, the business community or working-class voters. This view is held by Fox News pundits, executives and anchors at the major old-media outlets, reporters who cover the White House, Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and governors, many Democratic business people and lawyers who raised big money for Obama in 2008, and even some members of the Administration just beyond the inner circle.
When you have “pundits” like Halperin (you know, the guy who feels compelled as he’s saying this to throw out the "Fox News pundits" bit out there as if they’re really the only pundits mouthing off) compelled to finally be somewhat honest about the man, then he’s in trouble.
A little further on Halperin engages in a little bit of defense for Obama:
Most of Obama’s private (and sometimes public) rebuttals to the voices slamming him on all sides are justified or spot on. He did inherit a lot of problems from the Bush Administration. He did act quickly in the initial weeks of his Administration to stave off a worldwide depression. His efforts at job creation have been obstructed by Republicans (even the proposals based on policies supported by the GOP in the past). His opponents haven’t put forth specifics of their own, nor offered genuine compromise, while the media have allowed the right’s activists and gabbers to run wild with criticism without furnishing legitimate alternative solutions.
Of course all of this depends on how you view what he’s supposedly “done”. Unfortunately for him, the majority don’t agree that he’s earned the accolades Halperin and Obama think are due him. And the continued nonsense about “Republican obstruction” when everyone knew he had uncontested Democratic majorities that didn’t require a single GOP vote for quite some time simply isn’t washing with the masses.
Notice too Halperin’s attempt to spin the opposition. They’re “allowed” to “run wild with criticism without furnishing legitimate alternative solutions.”
Really? What rock has he been hiding under – there have been multitudes of alternative solutions offered. It is just that Halperin and the left don’t want to admit to their legitimacy. And just who are these organizations which have “allowed” these people to go “wild?” The same organizations that routinely allowed that same sort of behavior during the last administration. I guess you just don’t recognize it until it your ox being gored.
But you get a creeping sense as you read the article that Halperin, and most likely other true- believers, really, deep down inside, understand their man doesn’t have what it takes to do the job in such a way that it will be defensible in 2012. It will be very tough to help someone who seems so bound and determined to do the wrong things politically. For instance, look at how he’s reacted to various political problems:
But Obama has exacerbated his political problems not just by failing to enact policies that would have actually turned the economy around, but also by authorizing a series of tactical moves intended to demonize Republicans and distract from the problems at hand. He has wasted time lambasting his foes when he should have been putting forth his agenda in a clear, optimistic fashion, defending the benefits of his key decisions during the past two years (health care and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, for example) and explaining what he would do with a re-elected Democratic majority to spur growth.
Shorter version: he’s on the defensive and has retreated to campaign mode, the only real success he’s ever had in his life – getting elected to some office. He’s in his comfort zone. How are they going to entice him back out of that to “govern”? How does one get someone who is uncomfortable in the job and the role his election has garnered him to do what he’s supposed to do and not worry about what the critics say? Apparently they don’t. He’s abdicated his leadership position before and there’s no indication he’s really all that keen on the role. Halperin and his side are beginning to see and understand what many of us have understood before he took office.
How lost is Obama, the guy once touted as having one of the most finely tuned political antennas in the world?
Throughout the year, we have been treated to Obama-led attacks on George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Congressman Joe Barton (for his odd apology to BP), John Boehner (for seeking the speakership — or was it something about an ant?) and Fox News (for everything). Suitable Democratic targets in some cases, perhaps, but not worth the time of a busy Commander in Chief. In the past few days, we have witnessed the spectacle of the President himself and his top advisers wading into allegations that Republicans are attempting to buy the election using foreign money laundered through the Chamber of Commerce, combining with Karl Rove and his wealthy backers to fund a flood of negative television commercials. Not only is this issue convoluted and far-fetched, but it also distracts from the issues voters care about, frustrating political insiders and alienating struggling citizens (not that many are following such an offbeat story line). Feinting and gibing can’t obscure those job numbers.
Pretty darn lost. And I, frankly, don’t think much will change in the next few years. The man is not a leader and he’s not going to learn it in time to help himself. In fact, because he’s engaged in this battle with the Chamber of Commerce, I’d say he’s in even worse shape than previously imagined and seems to have some pretty bad advisers if they are enabling or encouraging the sort of behavior described above.
Gloria Borger, although she apparently doesn’t know it, has described why Obama and the Democrats are looking at the distinct possibility of an electoral avalanche that will sweep them out of the majority in the House in November. As Borger notes, when Obama took office, it seemed it was a Democratic majority built to last for years. Now “years” is down to “two”.
She points to one reason that is typical of any politician who wins an election – they read more into their win than is actually there:
Obama was elected as the corrective to the Bush years. Yet when you’re the winner, the temptation is always there to see yourself as something more than just an alternative — something larger, like a paradigm-changer or a transformational political figure. And Obama wanted nothing less than a change from conservatism to his own brand of 21st century activism.
"When you win an election," says political scientist Bill Galston, "you are always inclined to believe you won for the reasons you wanted to win."
In other words, you believe you won for the big stuff, not just because the voters didn’t like the other guy.
Watching Obama’s fading approval numbers and the ever increasing resistance to his agenda, it becomes clear that it was mostly about ‘the other guy’.
But there’s a larger point to be made as to why Obama and the Democrats are in the electoral shape they enjoy today:
Think back to the beginning. There’s an economic crisis, which the public believes Obama inherited. Then there’s his bucket-list of things he wants to get done. He has a choice: Handle the crisis or do the campaign to-do list.
And what does Obama decide? To do both. That is, the economy plus the rest of it — including health care.
"The irony is he didn’t even run on health care," says one Democratic pollster. "In truth, it wasn’t a large part of the general election campaign."
Interesting point. “He didn’t even run on health care”. Well he mentioned it, but it wasn’t his signature campaign issue. But it sure was Nancy Pelosi and the liberal caucus’s number one priority – a wet dream they’d had all their lives. And so while the economy was melting down and should have been the single dominant issued for the White House (and Congress), Obama allowed himself to be seduced into using all his political capital for something that wasn’t that important to the American people.
Borger attempts to make excuses for Obama that simply don’t ring true and certainly don’t pass the smell test:
Obama became convinced that solving the health care mess was key to solving the nation’s economic problems, especially bringing the deficit under control. In fact, when he first spoke of the importance of health care reform, it was all about "bending the cost curve," a slogan lost on most of the public.
BS. Any sane person, with even a cursory understanding of economics, knew that the program outlined in the monstrosity that has since become known as ObamaCare had as much of a chance of “bending the cost curve” down as Togo becoming the first nation in the world to land a man on Mars. Obama’s agenda was hijacked by Pelosi, et al, and he refused to stand up to them and say, “no – it’s the economy stupid”.
Democrats instead quickly passed an ineffective trillion dollar pork laden stimulus bill guaranteed to keep unemployment under 8% (or so they claimed) and then essentially turned away from the nation’s most pressing problem – other than to occasionally give it lip service – to their pet project, health care “reform”.
Borger claims it was Obama’s “ambitious agenda” that did him in and that the agenda “fed into the GOP narrative”. Unfortunately, at the point this was done, the GOP had no narrative. They were in a state of disarray and both powerless and voiceless.
No, the “voice” came out of townhalls. The “voice” showed up at “Tea Parties”. The “voice” expressed anger and frustration.
And what the “voice” was saying and continues to say is Obama and the Democrats made the wrong choice when they chose health care reform over working on the economy.
Nothing’s really changed either. Most of it – the position Democrats are now in – isn’t a result of any GOP narrative. It isn’t even necessarily because of the bad economy. It is a result of a poor leader caving into a special interest caucus within his party and putting that caucus’s priorities in front of the people’s priority.
Pretending it was anything else is simply nonsense. Democrats are facing an electoral avalanche in November because Obama let Pelosi and Reid usurp the leadership role that was his. And now they get to pay the butcher’s bill.
Maureen Dowd asks, “[h]ow did the first president of color become so colorless?” Or, where’s the Obama mojo that attracted so many independents and some Republicans – enough to see him convincingly elected to the presidency.
Answer – it takes theater to elect a president any more and they had good theater. It takes leadership to be a successful president and, at least to some of us, it was evident while reviewing the resume of then candidate Obama that he was way short in that department.
And now, as you might imagine, that’s showing up in spades. Dowd notes that independents are leaving Obama in droves and, using her sister as an example (“Peggy” who is supposedly a Republican who opposed the war in Iraq and therefore swung her support over to Obama) lays out the reasons. “Peggy” – as I read this – hit me more as an Olympia Snowe Republican than a conservative Republican:
Peggy thinks the president has done fine managing W.’s messes in Iraq and Afghanistan. And she lights up at the mention of his vice president, Joe Biden. But she thinks Obama has to get “a backbone” if he wants to lure her back to the fold. “He promised us everything, saying he would turn the country around, and he did nothing the first year,” Peggy says. “He piddled around when he had 60 votes. He could have pushed through the health care bill but spent months haggling on it because he wanted to bring some Republicans on board. He was trying too hard to compromise when he didn’t need the Republicans and they were never going to like him. Any idiot could see that.
“He could have gotten it through while Teddy Kennedy was still alive — he owed the Kennedys something — and then the bill was watered down.
My guess is that’s MoDo putting words in her sister’s mouth – if, in reality her sister really is a Republican. But I can’t imagine anyone of an even slightly conservative bent saying anything like "Peggy" did above.
However, MoDo goes on quoting Peggy’s thoughts and this seems much more likely of the person Dowd described:
“He hasn’t saved the economy, and now he’s admitting he’s made very little progress. You can’t for four years blame the person who used to be president. Obama tries to compromise too much, and he doesn’t look like a strong leader. I don’t watch him anymore. I’m turned off by him. I think he’s an elitist. He went down to the gulf, telling everyone to take a vacation down there, and then he goes to Martha’s Vineyard. He does what he wants but then he tells us to do other things.
“I want him in that White House acting like a president, not out on the campaign trail. Not when the country is going down the toilet.”
That sounds more like a independent or “moderate Republican” disillusioned by what all of us have seen and noted. A total lack of awareness about how leadership works. No understanding of how a leader should set the example and what leadership requires of a leader. Totally tone deaf. Obama’s fallback for his lack of leadership skills and complaints about that is to hit the campaign trail again. It is campaigning he feels comfortable doing and speeches are his preferred form of leadership – because campaigning requires lots of wonderfully crafted words but very little actual doing.
Obama’s coming problem in 2012 is he’ll have an actual record to examine– something he hasn’t really had before – and trust me, we all know it is going to be minutely examined. Those like “Peggy” have pretty much realized how poor that record really is and are already looking for other candidates (“Peggy” supposedly is interested in voting for Mitt Romney if he runs but thinks anyone would be “nuts” to vote for Sarah Palin – I assume that’s now an obligatory part of most lefty’ pundits columns – the gratuitous shot at Palin).
Frank Rich – another dependable administration media lap dog – is all excited about some “forceful speeches” Obama has given. Speaking of dogs, he’s very happy with how the president supposedly struck back at his critics saying they spoke about him “like a dog”. Wow – there’s the Obama of old.
But, even Rich knows he’s pushing a false line wrapped in a false hope:
For Obama to make Americans believe he does understand their problems and close the enthusiasm gap, he cannot merely make changes of campaign style. Sporadic photo ops in shirtsleeves or factory settings persuade no one; a few terrific speeches can’t always ride to the rescue.
In fact, that’s precisely the answer Obama always gives when confronted with a problem. Hey, I”ll go out and work the crowd and talk about it. It worked getting me elected, perhaps it will work now.
Uh, no – the campaign is over. Some one needs to tell the president and his staff that’s the case. Like “Peggy” said, she “wants him in the White House acting like a president”.
Faint hope of that ever happening.
Rich gives Obama this advice:
As many have noted, the obvious political model for Obama this year is Franklin Roosevelt, who at his legendary 1936 Madison Square Garden rally declared that he welcomed the “hatred” of his enemies in the realms of “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.” As the historian David Kennedy writes in his definitive book on the period, “Freedom from Fear,” Roosevelt “had little to lose by alienating the right,” including those in the corporate elite, with such invective; they already detested him as vehemently as the Business Roundtable crowd does Obama.
Though F.D.R. was predictably accused of “class warfare,” his antibusiness “radicalism,” was, in Kennedy’s words, “a carefully staged political performance, an attack not on the capitalist system itself but on a few high-profile capitalists.” Roosevelt was trying to co-opt the populist rage of his economically despondent era, some of it uncannily Tea Party-esque in its hysteria, before it threatened that system, let alone his presidency. Only the crazy right confused F.D.R. with communists for taking on capitalism’s greediest players, and since our crazy right has portrayed Obama as a communist, socialist and Nazi for months, he’s already paid that political price without gaining any of the benefits of bringing on this fight in earnest.
F.D.R. presided over a landslide in 1936. The best the Democrats can hope for in 2010 is smaller-than-expected losses. To achieve even that, Obama will have to give an F.D.R.-size performance — which he can do credibly and forcibly only if he really means it. So far, his administration’s seeming coziness with some of the same powerful interests now vilifying him has left middle-class voters, including Democrats suffering that enthusiasm gap, confused as to which side he is on. If ever there was a time for him to clear up the ambiguity, this is it.
Short version: hate is fine if you hate the right people – play that class warfare game, do some engaging but “F.D.R.-size” political theater, and the enthusiasm gap will start to close.
Really? One wonders where Mr. Rich has been hanging out. That’s all we’ve seen from this administration – political theater. Very little that most voters would consider to be “progress” has been seen. And despite the fact that Democrats would love to tout health care as “progress”, politically they know it is an albatross around their necks.
So they’re left with a bad economic situation, a greatly diminished presidency and “Peggy” and the Indies all headed to Redland. And Rich’s answer is “do F.D.R. theater”, snub Republicans and engage in some heavy class-warfare. That after telling him at another point “he cannot merely make changes of campaign style.” Yeah, no confusion in lefty ranks … none whatsoever.
In reality, all of that is an example of lefty style jargon that never directly states the problem but dances all around it. However they do know what he has to do to remedy the problem. If he or MoDo had just said “get off the campaign trail and actually do something … lead!” they could have saved a whole bunch of column space in the NYT for something else worth reading.
This magic formula for doing what the title suggests is courtesy of a New York Times editorial. After the appropriate amount of "the obstructionist GOP", and "poor Obama inherited this mess" whining, the NYT gets down to what it considers to be the brass tacks of the situation:
The question then is whether Mr. Obama will lead. He cannot force Congress to act, but he could pre-empt Republicans’ diatribes — on the deficit, on small business, on taxes — with tough truths and a big mission that would tie together the strategies and the sacrifices that will be needed to put the economy right.
The first sentence pretty much shoots the whole thing in the foot, doesn’t it? Even if you agree 100% with the NYT formula for political success, getting Obama to lead on anything is simply not very likely. He’s not a leader in a job that demands such a type. He’s, at best, a policy wonk. And judging by his economic policies not a very good one.
But back to the magic show that the NYT claims could save the left. Per the editorial, the country needs “tough truths” and a “big mission” with which to motivate the people enough to “put the economy right”.
Here’s an idea – how about policies which enable businesses by providing incentives to get off the cash they’re piling up, expand and hire? Settle the markets down by backing off government regulation, and intrusiveness. Back off new taxes and roll back some old ones. Stop spending money we don’t have. Make a real attempt to address the deficit.
Mr. Obama also needs to inspire Americans who have been ground down by the economic crisis and Washington’s small-bore sniping. He needs to rally the nation around a big idea — a project that is worth sacrificing for, worth paying for, worth working for. One that lets them know that there is more ahead than just a return to a status quo of lopsided growth in which corporate profits surge while jobs and incomes lag.
That mission could be the “21st century infrastructure,” that Mr. Obama mentioned on a multi-city trip this month, “not just roads and bridges, but faster Internet access and high-speed rail.” It could be energy independence, with high-tech green jobs and a real chance for addressing global warming. Either of the above would make sense, economically and politically.
Mr. Obama and his economic team had clearly hoped for an economic rebound in time for the midterm elections. They are not going to get it. The economic damage they inherited was too deep, and the economic stimulus they pushed through Congress, for all of the fight, was too small. Standing back is not doing the country or his party any good. We believe Americans are ready for hard truths and big ideas.
Wait – didn’t we just pour almost a trillion borrowed dollars into that “big mission”? Wasn’t it all about shovel ready infrastructure projects? And hasn’t it been a spectacular failure.
Certainly there are “infrastructure” needs that require addressing. But when you have an official unemployment rate of 9.5% (and an unofficial and much more accurate one well into double digits), people aren’t going to be impressed by “faster internet” and “green projects” that never seem to get anywhere and cost and arm and a leg. And high-speed rail? Really?
Oh, and the “chance to address global warming” is what – a chance to increase taxes, cripple businesses and make it even less likely that unemployment will improve. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Anyone who thinks people hurting economically would be impressed with this nonsense, even if Obama could and would lead, have to be living in an ivory tower somewhere. People want jobs, not high speed rail or faster internet. They don’t care if their job is a ‘green job’, they just want a freakin’ job. And global warming – the majority of the population doesn’t even agree it’s happening much less wanting costly government programs that address it by taking money from them.
Why is it the left doesn’t seem to understand that it is time to put the agenda aside and focus on the nuts and bolts of creating jobs? The need is immediate – not some 5 to 10 years away.
The reason is because such a focus would mean actually admitting that their present agenda is hurting such an effort as well as acknowledging that government may not be the answer (instead, getting government out of the way actually is the answer).
So we get these sorts of pathetic pleas to a man who couldn’t lead a group of 5 year olds to an ice cream truck to essentially keep the agenda alive by disguising it as something it is not – a way to fix our economic problems.
Clue to the NYT. Yes, the people are open for tough talk about shared sacrifice. The rally in DC this weekend underlines that. Here’s the problem for the left – the sacrifice they first want and expect to see is at the expense of this bloated, wasteful and ineffective national government that has its fingers in way to many pies. Until they see real spending cuts, real downsizing and real governmental reform that benefits them and the engine of the economy – businesses – they’re uninterested in any nonsense about more government or more government spending or 21st century agendas.
To continue a theme, this ain’t rocket science, but it certainly is something that seems to be beyond the capacity of the left to grasp. As it turns out, November will most likely reward them properly for their consistent inability to do so.
He doesn’t come right out and say it, but it is certainly evident in his column. If even a lapdog like Bob Herbert is noticing it – it must be pretty darn evident to everyone else:
President Obama missed his opportunity early last year to rally the public behind a call for shared sacrifice and a great national mission to rebuild the United States in a way that would create employment for millions and establish a gleaming new industrial platform for the great advances of the 21st century.
It would have taken fire and imagination, but the public was poised to respond to bold leadership. If the Republicans had balked, and they would have, the president had the option of taking his case to the people, as Truman did in his great underdog campaign of 1948.
But, he didn’t do any of that.
Herbert’s ideas of what he should have done are pure poo. However the underlying point of why he didn’t is what’s important. Whatever the plan, there was no leadership evident or apparently available to enthuse Americans, move the ball forward and rally support for whatever plan there was.
Instead we got a few carefully orchestrated campaign style events where themes such as “shared sacrifice” were mouthed, but then the president never visibly showed anyone what that meant. In fact, we saw the guy calling for “shared sacrifice” golfing repeatedly and now on a 5 vacations since July marathon. When you’re calling for “shared sacrifice”, perception is reality and that reality is critical to the success of your attempt. When leadership essentially excepts themselves from things like “shared sacrifice” those from whom they ask it feel no remorse in excepting themselves as well.
This is what Obama has never, ever gotten. Real leaders lead by example. Say what you will about him but George Bush understood that and refused to play golf while the nation was at war because he thought it was inappropriate and set the wrong example.
Obama doesn’t understand that basic point, apparently. That’s because the man isn’t a leader. And, as mentioned, when even your media lapdogs start pointing that out, it has to be so evident that even they can’t ignore it any longer.
That’s what the GOP says. For example:
Billy Nungesser, president of New Orleans’ Plaquemines Parish, sensed that a chart showing 140 oil skimmers at work — a chart given to him by BP and the Coast Guard — was “somewhat inaccurate.”
So, Nungesser asked to fly over the spill to verify the number. The flyover was cancelled three times before those officials admitted that just 31 of the 140 skimmers were actually deployed.
I guess some will be surprised by that. But, in fact, the government is in the positive spin business when it comes to self-reporting on the job it is doing – for anything. That’s why whenever something is announced or explained, skepticism – of the highest degree – should be exercised by the target audience.
In Nungesser’s case, he obviously knew that as ineffectual as the effort had been in his area, there couldn’t possibly be 140 skimmers deployed. And, of course, he was right.
Rep Darrel Issa (R-CA) has become a bit of a thorn in the administration’s side over its response to the spill. As ranking member of the House’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, he’s taken it upon himself to have the various administration claims investigated. The result? Not so hot:
Committee staff has discovered the following based upon witness interviews and documents provided by federal and state entities:
• Officials on the ground dispute key White House assertions about the number and timeliness of assets deployed in the Gulf. Local officials describe White House outreach efforts as more focused on stopping bad press than on addressing the disaster at hand;
• The White House’s assurances that there are adequate resources are at odds with the reality on the ground, where those on the frontline of the spill express significant frustration over the lack of assets. Local complaints are supported by the fact that the White House waited until Day 70 of the oil spill to accept critical offers of international assistance. Local workers and boats could have been assisting more with the clean-up if the Federal government had provided them with needed supplies and equipment;
• While the White House has tried to use the delay in finding a visible leak to explain its early silence on the oil spill, Transocean officials and Coast Guard documents from the scene of the oil spill reveal clear and early indications of a substantial oil leak days earlier than White House accounts;
• The failure of Administration officials to quickly waive laws preventing necessary foreign assets from reaching the Gulf and other regulations are hampering efforts to clean-up and limit damage from the oil spill. Local officials feel the federal government is making the perfect the enemy of the good in cleanup efforts;
• Local officials strongly dispute President Obama’s insistence that the federal government – and not BP – has been in control since day one. One Coast Guard Admiral told congressional investigators that decisions on the ground are made through a “consensus-based” process with BP. In practice, the Federal Government is not in charge of oil spill response efforts through a command-and-control approach;
• Local officials strongly believe the President’s call for a drilling moratorium will significantly compound the economic damage caused by the oil spill and will actually increase risk associated with future offshore drilling projects.
Shorter: The federal effort has not been nor is it now anything like what it has been cracked up to be by the administration’s spin. In fact, it’s been pretty pitiful.
But I think Rear Adm. Jim Watson probably says it best:
Rear Admiral Jim Watson, the senior-most official at the Unified Area Command in Robert, LA, also gave a different account of events on the ground. In a June 14, 2010, briefing to Chairman Towns, Ranking Member Issa, and staff, Watson stated that his command structure is decidedly different than what has been described by the White House. According to Watson, “It is not a war-fighting command and control structure where the Federal government is sending orders to BP. Rather the process on the ground with BP and others is “consensus-based,” where higher-raking officials inject themselves to resolve differences of opinion. In his view, “The framework probably isn’t up to the task.”
Ya think?! Day 74 and still, no one is in charge.
Where’s the freakin’ outrage?
Really – I want to know. Why did the “we’ve been on the job since day one” crowd take 70 more days to decide they should accept some offers of help that began coming in within 3 days of the spill.
(Via Hot Air):
The National Incident Command and the Federal On Scene Coordinator have determined that there is a resource need for boom and skimmers that can be met by offers of assistance from foreign governments and international bodies.
The United States will accept 22 offers of assistance from 12 countries and international bodies, including two high speed skimmers and fire containment boom from Japan. We are currently working out the particular modalities of delivering the offered assistance. Further details will be forthcoming once these arrangements are complete…
The Department has released a chart of offers of assistance that the U.S. has received from other governments and international bodies. The chart is updated as necessary to include any additional offers of assistance and decisions on accepting the offers.
The chart shows a good number of more offers still under “consideration”.
Why isn’t that equipment and technology already here and deployed?
What is going on with the “day one” crowd? Why are we still screwing around deciding what offers should or shouldn’t be accepted?
Meanwhile, the red tape continues to stymie efforts to clean up the spill.
This vid sort of sums it all up.
Mort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of US News and World report writes a blistering piece that certainly seems to indicate that’s the case. Zuckerman says the world sees Obama as “incompetent and amateur” and that on the world stage he is “well-intentioned but can’t walk the walk”. That’s a nice way to say he’s a lightweight in an arena where only seasoned heavyweights prosper.
Zuckerman’s opinion is not one to be taken lightly. He was a huge Obama backer. He voted for him. His newspaper, the NY Daily News, endorsed him and was enthusiastic in his support of the Obama candidacy.
Now, 16 months into his presidency, he’s obviously very disappointed in his choice. And, it would appear, has come to understand that which he didn’t know or didn’t bother to find out about Obama at the time – that he has no leadership skills or abilities and is, in fact, more of an academic than a Commander-in-Chief.
Zuckerman is a keen and long time observer of American foreign policy, and as such he has the ability to compare and contrast what American foreign policy has seemed like under different presidents and under this one. He begins his critique of Obama by saying he actually inherited a “great foreign policy legacy enjoyed by every recent US president.”
Of course to hear Obama talk about it you’d think he’d been handed the worst mess in the world. But even assuming that, what has Obama done? Not much – and that’s beginning to become evident to the rest of the world. Says Zuckerman:
Yet, the Iraq war lingers; Afghanistan continues to be immersed in an endless cycle of tribalism, corruption, and Islamist resurgence; Guantánamo remains open; Iran sees how North Korea toys with Obama and continues its programs to develop nuclear weapons and missiles; Cuba spurns America’s offers of a greater opening; and the Palestinians and Israelis find that it is U.S. policy positions that defer serious negotiations, the direct opposite of what the Obama administration hoped for.
So success in the field that is exclusively the President’s has been elusive. Then there’s Obama the “leader”:
The reviews of Obama’s performance have been disappointing. He has seemed uncomfortable in the role of leading other nations, and often seems to suggest there is nothing special about America’s role in the world. The global community was puzzled over the pictures of Obama bowing to some of the world’s leaders and surprised by his gratuitous criticisms of and apologies for America’s foreign policy under the previous administration of George W. Bush. One Middle East authority, Fouad Ajami, pointed out that Obama seems unaware that it is bad form and even a great moral lapse to speak ill of one’s own tribe while in the lands of others.
Seems to be common sense to the rest of us, yet it is hard for anyone, even his most ardent supporters, to deny he’s engaged in more of that than any useful diplomacy.
Zuckerman also notes something I commented on months ago. He has no personal relationship with any of the world’s leaders. And that is critical to success in foreign diplomacy:
In his Cairo speech about America and the Muslim world, Obama managed to sway Arab public opinion but was unable to budge any Arab leader. Even the king of Saudi Arabia, a country that depends on America for its survival, reacted with disappointment and dismay. Obama’s meeting with the king was widely described as a disaster. This is but one example of an absence of the personal chemistry that characterized the relationships that Presidents Clinton and Bush had with world leaders. This is a serious matter because foreign policy entails an understanding of the personal and political circumstances of the leaders as well as the cultural and historical factors of the countries we deal with.
His meeting China was also a disaster and he was treated almost disrespectfully there. And he’s all but deep sixed our “special relationship” with the UK and certainly isn’t much loved by Sarkozy of France. Don’t even begin to talk about Israel.
These sorts of problems and perceptions have an effect in international affairs. A perfect example?
Recent U.S. attempts to introduce more meaningful sanctions against Iran produced a U.N. resolution that is way less than the “crippling” sanctions the administration promised. The United States even failed to achieve the political benefit of a unanimous Security Council vote. Turkey, the Muslim anchor of NATO for almost 60 years, and Brazil, our largest ally in Latin America, voted against our resolution. Could it be that these long-standing U.S. allies, who gave cover to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, have decided that there is no cost in lining up with America’s most serious enemies and no gain in lining up with this administration?
So they go their own way in the absence of US leadership. This week, Russia’s President Medvedev criticized the US for placing additional sanctions on Iran, above and beyond the UN’s rather pitiful ones.
Obama has been a foreign affairs disaster to this point, and as Zuckerman points out, this has sent a very clear message to many of those out there who wish us ill as well as those who count themselves as allies:
America right now appears to be unreliable to traditional friends, compliant to rivals, and weak to enemies. One renowned Asian leader stated recently at a private dinner in the United States, “We in Asia are convinced that Obama is not strong enough to confront his opponents, but we fear that he is not strong enough to support his friends.”
I think at this point, that’s a perfectly defensible and accurate assessment. This is why I continue to say that there are some pretty heavy storm clouds brewing on the international horizon. US leadership is seen as missing or weak – a perfect time for those who take advantage of power vacuums to step forward and make their particular grabs for power.
Don’t be surprised to see it happen soon.