Obama’s failure to lead

Obama’s failure to lead

By Jay Rooney

President Obama was called upon to lead and has utterly failed, and in less than two months. From the stimulus package that won’t stimulate even Chris Matthews’ leg, to the continuing series of ethically questionable political appointments, through an outrageous Congressional spending binge that included unfettered earmarks, he has passed on all the easy leadership opportunities.  What will he do on the tougher issues?


Recall that the presidential race was a dead heat when the economic crisis hit last fall.  Obama’s legendary calm, cool, and collected manner was viewed as better for dealing with a crisis and he pulled ahead.  We know now that this persona is a media-hyped marketing fiction devised by his campaign.  His comical reliance on the teleprompter (at a rodeo!) has become the butt of late-night jokes, and in his unscripted moments he’s like an unprepared high school debater fumbling for his lines.


The politician as leader has always been a curious formulation.  Politicians are rarely leaders and yet that’s what children are taught in school.  Last fall’s elections were viewed by teachers as an opportunity to show children that electing our leaders is the beauty of our democratic system.


At the local level — the county board, mayors, township road commissioners, and tax assessors — it’s usually about competence rather than leadership.  How else to explain Republican mayors elected in places like New York, despite an overwhelmingly Democrat electorate?  Local politicians elevate social services above basic services to get elected and then find they can’t pay for both.  When basic services suffer, voters lose patience quickly.  Mayor Daley in Chicago understands this better than just about anyone, with his laser focus on delivering city services efficiently.  Indeed, it’s how he has survived for twenty years in a city legendary for its corruption.


At the state or national level, try to name a senator or representative who’s a true leader.  It’s likely to be no more than a handful of people.  Most are elected because they reflect the views of their constituents, not because they’ve taken bold positions on controversial issues.  Their own views of power and leadership can be sharply at odds with voters – Tom Daschle was defeated by his home state voters at the height of his power and influence as Senate Majority Leader, a fate that likely awaits Harry Reid.


It’s the executive positions, the governors and the president, that occasionally call for leadership.  But on those rare occasions, the media has the formulation almost exactly backward: leadership isn’t something the voters give the candidate, it’s something the candidate takes – and gets elected as a result.  Winston Churchill’s warnings about the need to defeat the Nazi menace sooner rather than later fell mostly on deaf ears, but he persisted in the face of ridicule by his countrymen.  When the threat became real, his leadership was recognized and he was elected.


In the last 70 years, few presidents were truly called on by the people to lead.  Roosevelt set the precedent that Obama now follows, which is that taking some kind of action, no matter how irresponsible and ineffective, or even destructive, is what counts.  Ronald Reagan held to his conservative principles, even in the heyday of big-government liberalism, and won election eventually.  His economic and foreign policy accomplishments set the stage for 25 years of almost uninterrupted prosperity and peace.


Can Obama still lead?  He can — his first 100 days (an artificial conceit if ever there were one) aren’t even up yet — but there’s little reason for optimism.  Obama touts pragmatism as his strength and explains pedantically that no core philosophy or guiding principles are needed, that he’s open to all ideas.  But most ideas so far reflect exclusively the Loony Left ideology, which has been rejected by voters repeatedly over decades, and the notion that the voters took a sharp Left turn in the last election is unsupported by either facts or polls. And Obama is now trying Chavez-style demagoguery as a proxy for leadership, attacking straw men with unusual vigor.  He simply doesn’t know what it means to be a leader.


Rising through the Chicago machine, Obama has taken the wrong lesson from Mayor Daley.  He seems to be rehashing Michael Dukakis’ old campaign slogan: “It’s not about ideology, it’s about competence.”  Obama’s arguments about healthcare are truly alarming – he claims he can save enough money to insure the uninsured by having the government implement extraordinarily complex and expensive new computer systems and then manage the entire health care system more efficiently!  It would be laughable if it wasn’t so scary.  It’s another familiar refrain from the Left, that big-government programs aren’t fundamentally flawed, they were just never properly administered.  If Dukasis’ defeat in the 1988 election showed anything, it was that it’s all about ideology.


It’s not that competence doesn’t matter.  The incompetence of the Obama administration is staggering and people are noticing.  Hillary Clinton and the foreign policy appointees are not only naïve (negotiating with antisemitic haters) but embarrassingly clueless about basic protocol.  Geithner has failed at Treasury, making his resignation almost a matter of time, and Obama should replace him while there are still prominent and trustworthy financial leaders willing to serve his administration.  Rahm Emanuel sits around with the former Clinton political team drinking coffee and planning attacks on Rush Limbaugh, galvanizing the opposition.  His juvenile antics were tolerable during the prosperous Clinton years but are disgusting in an economic crisis, yet no action from Obama to end it.  In fact, they convinced Obama it was in his interest to attack Limbaugh!


It’s a shame.  Obama entered office with tremendous political capital, more than any president in recent memory, but has squandered much of it in a remarkably short time.  He’s like the factory worker who won the lottery and allowed his teenage children (Pelosi and Reid) to lose most of the money on a drunken gambling binge.  He still has some left but how will he use it?  Sadly, his political capital is likely to go the way of most of the bailout money — a sad waste of a grand opportunity. 

Page Printed from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/03/obamas_failure_to_lead.html at March 19, 2009 – 12:56:04 PM EDT

Duke Coach to Obama: Worry About the Economy, Not NCAA Picks

Duke Coach to Obama: Worry About the Economy, Not NCAA Picks

Reacting to news Obama picked North Carolina to win the NCAA Championship, Mike Krzyzewski says, “the economy is something that [the president] should focus on, probably more than the brackets.”


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Barack Obama picked North Carolina to defeat Louisville for the NCAA championship, a relatively safe selection for a trailblazing president.

Obama spent part of Tuesday making his tournament picks for ESPN, which posted his completed bracket online Wednesday and showed the First Fan filling it out with Andy Katz on the noon edition of “Sportscenter.”

Of course, the president’s choice drew a reaction from the Tar Heels’ most intense rival.

“Somebody said that we’re not in President Obama’s Final Four, and as much as I respect what he’s doing, really, the economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said from the Blue Devils’ first-round site in Greensboro, N.C.

The president had top-seeded Pittsburgh join the No. 1-seeded Tar Heels and Cardinals in the Final Four, but chose second-seeded Memphis to beat Connecticut in the West Regional.

“I think Memphis has got a very athletic team,” Obama told Katz, an ESPN college basketball analyst. “I think they’ve got a good shot.”

Perhaps showing some indecision, Obama initially had the Panthers playing Louisville for the national title in the file posted online. Pitt was scratched out of the title game in favor of North Carolina, which in turn replaced Louisville in the “champion” box.

“Here’s what I like about Carolina: experience and balance,” Obama said.

Familiarity, too. Obama played a pickup game with Tyler Hansbrough and the Tar Heels while campaigning in North Carolina last April.

“Now, for all the Tar Heels who are watching, I picked you last year â€â€� you let me down,” Obama said. “This year, don’t embarrass me in front of the nation, all right? I’m counting on you. I still got those sneakers you guys gave me.”

Katz interviewed Obama last October for a story about the president’s brother-in-law, Oregon State basketball coach Craig Robinson. After the interview, Obama invited Katz to play in a pickup basketball game on Election Day in Chicago, and he did.

Katz extracted a promise from Obama that if elected, the new president would reveal his NCAA picks to ESPN when the pairings were announced in March.

“They stayed true to their word and didn’t hesitate to get it done,” Katz said.

Obama was brutally honest in assessing many of the teams, including Blake Griffin and second-seeded Oklahoma, which he has losing to Syracuse for a spot in the final eight.

“The problem with Oklahoma, they have the player of the year, but they play like, seven guys,” Obama said. “I think you start getting worn down.”

Among the other notable selections, Obama picked 10th-seeded Maryland to beat No. 7 seed California in the West Regional, fifth-seeded Florida State to make the round of 16, and No. 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth to beat UCLA.

Any chance the president slips away for a few minutes to see how his picks are doing when the tournament begins in earnest Thursday?

“I think the chances are pretty high,” he said