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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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I’m sure it will somehow become a matter of race, but a recent Public Policy Polling survey showed that 50% of the state voters rated President Bush’s performance in 2005 after hurricane Katrina as better than the effort by President Obama today. Only 35% picked Obama’s performance as the best. That’s not to say the state was satisfied with either response. On the contrary, 62% said they disapproved of Obama’s handling of the crisis while 58% said they disapproved of Bush’s performance.
Meanwhile, another new poll finds that Obama’s approval rating has hit a new low:
Rasmussen Reports released a new poll Wednesday showing Obama’s approval rating hitting a new low — 42 percent. The daily tracking poll puts a 20-point spread between Obama’s strong approval and disapproval, 24 and 44 percent respectively.
That last poll tracks with the poll reported previously that found a majority of Americans didn’t believe Obama deserved re-election.
The continuing bad news in the polls has got to be worrying the crew in the White House. It’s not at a point, given the election is still 2 years off, that anyone there has to panic, but they’ve got a job on their hands turning this around. The building conventional wisdom seems to be that Obama is an administrator, not a leader, and that, given his performance, is going to be a tough meme to kill. The other CW seems to be he may be in over his head. The polls reflect both of those perceptions.
The president and his staff have got to find a way to cast Obama as a decisive and competent leader. That’s a real problem right now, although unfortunately, given the simmering international situation, they may get more opportunities than they ever sought to make the attempt.
Of course many of the upcoming international opportunities, we’ll learn, will come about precisely because Obama isn’t a strong and decisive leader.
Irony, it seems, has a warped sense of humor and always seems to throw more opportunities at those that want them least.
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This is just shameless.
In an interview with Roger Simon of Politico, our Presidential blame-shifter creates a hypothetical situation in an attempt to divert attention from his poor performance to unnamed Congressional persons:
“I think it’s fair to say, if six months ago, before this spill had happened, I had gone up to Congress and I had said we need to crack down a lot harder on oil companies and we need to spend more money on technology to respond in case of a catastrophic spill, there are folks up there, who will not be named, who would have said this is classic, big-government overregulation and wasteful spending.”
What they may or may not of have “said” is irrelevant to the fact that 6 months ago, had he gone up to Congress and said a crack down was needed, he’d have enjoyed substantial majorities in both the House and Senate allowing him to do exactly that. In fact he didn’t go to Congress, he didn’t say there needed to be a crack down and he didn’t initiate any new legislation to do so.
His 16 months in office apparently weren’t enough to oversee any necessary changes in Minerals Management Service to better regulate drilling and it was under his administration that the Deepwater Horizon platform was awarded a government award for safety in 2009 for “outstanding drilling operations” and a “perfect performance period.”
In other words, any failure on the part of government rests squarely in his lap.
“Some of the same folks who have been hollering and saying ‘do something’ are the same folks who, just two or three months ago, were suggesting that government needs to stop doing so much,” Obama said. “Some of the same people who are saying the president needs to show leadership and solve this problem are some of the same folks who, just a few months ago, were saying this guy is trying to engineer a takeover of our society through the federal government that is going to restrict our freedoms.”
Here he resorts to a classic logical fallacy: the strawman argument. Those arguing that he’s trying to “engineer a takeover of our society” weren’t arguing about executing the basic functions of government. They were talking about takeovers of banks, financial institutions, car companies, health care and other areas not associated with those basic function. Disaster relief and mitigation – that’s considered a basic function and no one is hollering that shouldn’t happen as it always has. Taking over GM? That relates to what those people were “hollering” about. That is an unprecedented takeover. That is an indication of the point those people are making. Containing an oil spill in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico? That’s Obama’s job.
So the implication here is he’s either not doing his job because those same people will holler, or those people hollering are hypocrites (and he hopes that distracts you from the fact that he’s not doing his job (the strawman fallacy comes under the broad category of “fallacies of distraction”)).
Here’s a hint for our erstwhile President: ducking responsibility and blame-shifting are not among the principles of leadership.
Clarence Darrow once said, “when I was a boy I was told that anyone could become President; I’m beginning to believe it.”
Unfortunately, so am I.
[Another good takedown here.]
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If the administration has lost Bob Herbert, an up to now dependable Obama sycophant, I’d say they’re in deep trouble.
Not that Herbert’s column is an outright declaration of incompetence or anything. In fact he tip toes around quite assiduously laying out the woes the nation faces and his idea of what is necessary (more spending – much more spending) to correct the situation.
He laments the depth of unemployment and the economic demise of the private sector. And he is sure, that had some things been done when necessary (more spending – much more spending) we might be on the road to recovery. But since those things weren’t done (more spending – much more spending) we’re in the quagmire and, says Herbert, “there is no plan that I can see to get us out of this fix.”
Any guess why he says that? The last to sentences in his column and our quote of the day explain:
Bold and effective leadership would have put us on this road to a sustainable future. Instead, we’re approaching a dead end.
When even Herbert figures it out you have to figure the gig is pretty much up.
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The ABC News/Washington Post poll is nothing to write home about if you’re the President of the United States – they guy in charge of the federal government’s response to disaster. Americans are beginning to understand the scope of the catastrophe, they hold the proper company responsible and culpable, but, that said, they’re not at all happy with the federal government’s response. Interestingly, the present effort gets worse reviews than Katrina.
By more than a 2-to-1 margin, Americans support the pursuit of criminal charges in the nation’s worst oil spill , with increasing numbers calling it a major environmental disaster. Eight in 10 criticize the way BP’s handled it – and more people give the federal government’s response a negative rating than did the response to Hurricane Katrina.
A month and a half after the spill began, 69 percent in a new ABC News/Washington Post poll rate the federal response negatively. That compares with a 62 negative rating for the response to Katrina two weeks after the August 2005 hurricane.
The IBD/TIPP poll echoes the ABC poll:
The poll found that 30% rated Obama’s response as “unacceptable” and 22% rated it “poor.” Just 6% rated it “excellent” and 17% “good.” The rest gave him an average score.
Three-quarters of Republicans and one-third of Democrats disapprove of Obama on the issue. In an ominous sign for Democrats heading into midterm elections, just 18% of independents gave him favorable marks on the spill vs. 57% giving him failing grades.
The all important independent bloc gave him failing marks in an overwhelming majority (74% of independents viewed the federal effort negatively in the ABC poll).
“I don’t sit around talking to experts because this is a college seminar,” Obama continued. “We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”
Given the polls, the size of the disaster and the poor federal response, most people, as the polls demonstrate, already know “whose ass to kick.”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be having much of an effect.
I think Charlie Rangel may have summed it up best:
“I don’t think the administration has the slightest clue. We’re bringing in experts now, in and outside of government, to see whether or not BP will do more.”
America continues to be held hostage by a lack of leadership.
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We’re 48 days into the worst American oil spill in history and the administration is just now seeminly becoming engaged in the business of addressing it. Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has been hopping around like a frog on a hot griddle trying to get some action to preserve the state’s wetlands. In a statement released 3 days ago, he thanks President Obama for coming to the state and says that each of the 2 times he’s been there (in 48 days) the pace seems to pick up (hint, hint). He also says this:
“Just as we said yesterday, we told the President we are moving ahead without BP. We already signed contracts to begin this work with Shaw and Bean Dredging. We put in a request to the Army Corps of Engineers this morning to release their available dredges and they have indentified four dredges – including one located close to the site that is most likely to be available – the MV CALIFORNIA. I met with the CEO of Shaw today and they said that if the US Army Corps of Engineers will allow them to borrow sand closer to the dredging sites, which we will replace, we could see sand by Monday.
“We are moving forward with or without BP. We gave them two choices – they can either send us a check, get out of the way and let us start this work, or they can sign a contract and do it themselves. We are going ahead without them. Last night, we met with Admiral Allen and he said he feels like he is making progress in getting BP to actually pay for this work. To date, BP has done a great job in sending us press releases and attorneys, but they haven’t sent us any money to dredge.”
So why is anyone waiting on BP for anything? The oil slick certainly isn’t waiting on them. Why is government?
Well state government may have a budget problem. I.e. it may not have the money for such a massive undertaking. It might need disaster relief money.
Most would think that’s something the federal government should have made available immediately. Heck, if nothing else, divert some of that useless “stimulus” money that hasn’t been spent yet.
The bottom line is that in a time critical situation like this, a state governor shouldn’t be left to beating up a private company for money to do what needs to be done to save his state’s wetlands. I’m not saying BP shouldn’t pay – bill them for heaven sake – but why hasn’t the federal government’s disaster relief funding been used to remedy this situaition? Why is Jindal still “undertaking” the sand berms?
This is what people mean about a lack of leadership or sense of urgency concerning this spill from the President. Jindal and the state of Louisiana hit upon these berms as a method of keeping the oil away from Louisiana’s marshlands weeks ago. Why is he still trying to get them built?
Read the rest of Jindal’s press release and contrast that with what Obama has had to say. In one you’ll find an engaged leader on top of the situation and making it the priority it should be. In Obama’s case, it seems he’s being dragged into the problem figuratively kicking and screaming and would much rather be at the Ford theater or welcoming the latest sports team to the White House or attending another McCartney concert. Anything but the doing the job for which he campaigned.
Speaking of campaigns, Byron York dials up the Way Back machine and gives us a little reminder of the “executive experience” President Obama claimed then and why this should be no real surprise to those who were paying attention:
COOPER: And, Senator Obama, my final question — some of your Republican critics have said you don’t have the experience to handle a situation like this. They in fact have said that Governor Palin has more executive experience, as mayor of a small town and as governor of a big state of Alaska. What’s your response?
OBAMA: Well, you know, my understanding is, is that Governor Palin’s town of Wasilla has, I think, 50 employees. We have got 2,500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So, I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years. And, certainly, in terms of the legislation that I passed just dealing with this issue post-Katrina of how we handle emergency management, the fact that many of my recommendations were adopted and are being put in place as we speak, I think, indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect.
Yes, it was all there for those who chose to actually look.
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The political winds certainly seem to be shifting a bit as I watch pundit after pundit begin, every so softly for some, to come to the same conclusion Maureen Dowd has about President Obama.
The oil won’t stop flowing, but the magic has.
The other day, Dowd referred to Obama as “President Spock” and moaned about his inability to relate. He’s not an emmoter-in-chief as Bill Clinton was, she complained. Instead he maintains an aloof distance and instead of tackling the problems that come with the presidency head-on, seems more inclined to treat them as annoyances or distractions.
All this brought on by an oil spill that Barack Obama had nothing to do with, but which is now starting to define his presidency. Said Dowd in the previous editorial:
Once more, he has willfully and inexplicably resisted fulfilling a signal part of his job: being a prism in moments of fear and pride, reflecting what Americans feel so they know he gets it.
Again, to those of us who watched his progression to the Presidency while warning about his wafer thin resume, this doesn’t come as a particular surprise. Call it “I told you so” if you wish, but many critics found his lack of leadership credentials to be the most important reason not to elect the man.
And now, the Dowds, Carvilles and Matthews of the world are discovering this problem.
Certainly, he didn’t cause the leak. George Bush didn’t cause Katrina. But he’s responsible for the federal response, a precedent set by Katrina and the Democrats who demonized and pilloried Bush. Obama is the guy on the spot to make a difference when a disaster strikes. He is the person who must mobilize the federal forces necessary, remove the red-tape and get things headed in the direction they need to be headed.
Where is that? He’s visited the area twice. He seems to have no idea of what further measures might be possible or necessary. He’s delegated everything to others and doesn’t seem that interested in taking an active hand. In fact, it appears he’s only made an effor to look like he’s interested because people are beginning to talk.
Where is the leadership? Where’s Obama taking an active role, for instance, in federalizing some National Guard troops, training them up on beach and marsh clean up and getting them where they need to be? Is every possible boom available on site and either deployed or ready to go? Why isn’t he in using the influence of his office to remove the red tape wound tightly about the Corps of Engineers and helping the governor of LA get his barrier islands constructed?
Why isn’t he talking to Saudi Arabia about how they used supertankers used to clean up the horrendous spill caused by Saddam Hussein over here? How many supertankers are available. Why aren’t we chartering them, and moving them in the spill area?
Instead we see the deployment of the Attorney General to explore criminal indictments against BP, a commission to study the problem and this:
One little hole a mile down on the ocean floor, so deep it seems like hell spewing up its sulfurous smoke, has turned the thrilling saga of “The One” into the gurgling horror of “The Abyss.” (Thank goodness James Cameron, the director of “The Abyss,” came to Washington Tuesday to help the administration figure out how to cap the BP well. What’s next? Sending down the Transformers and Megan Fox?)
Seriously – James Cameron is somehow more of an authority on submersibles than, say, the thousands upon thousands of experts within the oil industry (not just BP) who work with them daily in the environment in question? Is it any wonder to see people like Dowd beginning to lose confidence in Obama’s ability to lead?
Barack Obama isn’t responsible for the leak, and he’s made it clear, and rightfully so, who is. But he is responsible for protecting this country from all enemies and problems – even evil oil slicks that threaten our coastlines and way of life in those areas.
And he’s failing – miserably. Dowd continues to pretend this is something that Obama can change and quickly if he’ll only step up.
This president has made it clear that he’s not comfortable outside whatever domain he’s defined. But unless he wants his story to be marred by a pattern of passivity, detachment, acquiescence and compromise, he’d better seize control of the story line of his White House years. Woe-is-me is not an attractive narrative.
His problem isn’t a story line that he’s deliberately, for whatever reason, allowing to unfold. It is the fact that he hasn’t the experience, the fortitude or the leadership to do what is necessary to address the ever growing problem.
43 days and Obama remains on his balcony, detached, annoyed and clueless. That’s not how anyone wants to see their President.
As he did many times in the Illinois Senate, he is again voting “present”.
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