I think Toby Harnden of the UK’s Telegraph describes pretty well what most of us have observed and concluded about President Obama:
Perhaps we should not be surprised that the land of the permanent campaign has produced a president like Barack Obama. During his White House bid, Mr Obama’s staff argued that his masterful oversight of the machinery that ultimately got him elected was his highest achievement.
In many respects this was true, though Mr Obama was more chairman than CEO. Even Republican political operatives acknowledge that the Obama ’08 campaign was a thing of beauty.
Essentially, however, Mr Obama won because of his persona – post-racial, healing, cool, articulate and inspirational. In a sense, therefore, his greatest achievement in life is being Barack Obama. Or the campaign version, at least.
Therein lies the problem. While campaigning could centre around soaring rhetoric, governing is altogether messier. It involves tough, unpopular choices and cutting deals with opponents. It requires doing things rather than talking about them, let alone just being.
Mr Obama is showing little appetite for this. Instead of being the commander-in-chief, he is the campaigner-in-chief.
I think this is best reflected in a number that’s been circulating recently – Obama has done 2 to 3 times more political fundraisers at this point in his presidency than did either GW Bush or Bill Clinton. While they were apparently concentrating more on the job at hand Obama seems unable, or unwilling, to drop the campaign mode and step into the governing role.
Consequently Afghanistan strategy is adrift, health care reform is leaderless and Obama flits around doing fundraisers and campaign-style townhalls.
Now, he is stumping for Democratic candidates in states he won last year but which are now in danger. Last Wednesday in Hackensack, Mr Obama took to the stage to proclaim: “Your voice can change the world. Your voice can elect Jon Corzine, governor once again of New Jersey.” Change the world? Mr Corzine is a former Goldman Sachs executive whose political career was launched when he spent $57 million of his own money on a Senate seat in 2000.
The rally was an attempted 2008 reprise. There was the spontaneous (or not) cry of “I love you!” bashfully acknowledged by Mr Obama with a “I love you back.”
There were the Obama-led chants of “Fired up! Ready to go!” and the ubiquitous “Yes We Can” signs.
And as he always does, Mr Obama blamed every economic woe on the Bush years, conveniently forgetting that Republicans are no longer in office and it’s been his mess for nine months now.
The “blame Bush” card, just like the race card, is wearing very thin. It is also worth remembering that the budgets that were passed by Congress during the last two years as well as the initial 700 billion bailout package appropriated by that same Democratic Congress all had Mr. Obama’s stamp of approval by way of his vote for each of them.
But, going back to the subject, it seems like every time it gets a little hot in Washington DC, Obama’s answer is to leave and rally somewhere as if doing so will somehow improve the other situation.
And then, in what one can only describe as a fit of stupidity that compounds the problem of perception, the White House picks a fight with a news organization with which it has issues. It ends up rallying the other news organizations to the side of the one it’s picking on and ends up looking both petty and vindictive.
Finally, it appears even the comedians have had enough:
“President Obama agreed to commit an additional 40,000 troops to help fight Fox News,” quipped NBC’s Jay Leno. “Senior White House adviser David Axelrod told reporters that Fox News is just pushing a point of view. Well, yes, but at least they’ve got a point of view.”
Losing the comedians is usually an indicator of a loss public support. And all of them are now taking pot-shots, even the odius Bill Maher.
Mr Obama was elected on a promise of being post-partisan to Washington and transforming the country. Thus far, he has won the support of only a single Republican for his health-care plan and has shown himself to be as aggressive a Democratic partisan in office as anyone in the fabled Clinton war room.
Beyond the grand announcements, fine speeches and his eager acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr Obama has yet to achieve anything of substance. It is time for the campaign to end.
But it won’t. It can’t. And there is a very simple reason for that – Mr. Obama has never done anything of substance, nor has he ever run anything of substance. He simply isn’t equipped with the experience and know-how necessary to do that. He’s never been a leader, had to be a leader and doesn’t know how to lead.
He knows how to campaign. It’s that at which he is good. Campaigning is all “grand announcements” and “fine speeches” in which the campaigner never has to put up or shut up. Now that he finds himself in this rather awkward position of actually having to deliver on his “grand announcements” and “fine speeches”, he reverts to that he knows best. And that means a perpetual campaign.