Ruminations, March 18, 2012
Is Obama an inspired leader?
When we consider a candidate for President, we want a leader. It’s obvious that a president cannot know everything so he/she must be able to call on experts, ask the right questions and then synthesize a plan of action – and if the plan of action fails, he/she must be able to regroup and create a new plan and then lead.
In the case of Mitt Romney, the presumable Republican candidate, we can only make assumptions of how he would lead as president – he has no presidential track record. But in the case of President Barack Obama, we have a record of almost four years. How’s he doing?
Everyone has some abilities to lead. All one has to do is to select a plan of action and have followers. So Obama has been a leader – at least some of the time. Has he led capably, has he led in the right direction, and how is he viewed by those who are neither his followers nor detractors?
Gulf Oil Spill
The Gulf Oil Spill provided the country and the world with the opportunity to observe the President handing a vast emergency under pressure. His most famous line was “I have to know whose butt to kick.” Really? In the midst of a crisis, Obama wants to find the guilty parties and kick their butts?(Following the President’s lead, Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, said that he would keep “our boot on their [BP’s] neck until the job gets done”) Instead of concentrating on the problem at hand (containing and stopping the spill, providing consistent direction and providing aid to those directly affected), Obama was determined to absolve his administration of guilt and blame someone else.
BP had the formidable task of stopping an oil leak one mile below the surface of the ocean. Instead of working with them, the President’s Democratic Party held Congressional hearings asking BP to defend itself. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to ask BP to answer for their culpability after the leak was sealed?
Obama was purported to say angrily, “Plug the damn hole,” and then went off to a fund-raiser.How did he do on the Gulf Oil Spill? The only leadership he provided in this case was to ensure that neither he nor his party was blamed. This is leadership in the wrong direction.
In 2010, Republican Scott Brown won the special senatorial election in Massachusetts and said that he would be the 41st vote to stop the Obama health care bill. In a subsequent Democratic leadership meeting, it was reported that Obama was ready to concede defeat on health care, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) turned the meeting around, saying that there were tactics that could be used to force the health care bill through Congress in spite of Brown. She won the day.
We are supposed to be talking about Obama’s leadership and not Nancy Pelosi’s. In this case, she led and he followed
In 2010, Obama appointed former Senator Alan Simpson (R, WY) and Erskine Bowles, former Democratic Chief of Staff to head a commission that would recommend “…policies to improve the fiscal situation in the medium term and to achieve fiscal sustainability over the long run.” The duo completed their study and had recommendations ready by the end of 2010. As a truly bipartisan study, it had something for everyone to love and something for everyone to hate.
But it was bipartisan and would address areas of the fiscal situation that members of Congress were fearful of addressing. Nonetheless, with the President’s backing, positive reforms could have been enacted and the reforms would provide the message that the president was serious about fiscal reform.
What did Obama do? Nothing. This is not leadership.
At a conference in Bonn, Germany, last December, NATO members convened to discuss prospects for Afghanistan. Der Spiegel reported: “… in the eyes of the conference’s participants, it is the Americans who bring the greatest amount of uncertainty into the great game in Afghanistan. No one knows what their long-term goals there really are. Indeed, what seems to be missing in Washington is decisive guidance from above.”
In the United States, people are increasingly turning against the war in Afghanistan, the war that Obama called “necessary.” What has Obama said or done about Afghanistan to mobilize American public opinion? He surged 30,000 troops and said that he had a timetable for leaving Afghanistan.
James McPherson, in his 1991 book, Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, wrote about wartime leadership: “[Lincoln’s and Roosevelt’s] pre-eminent quality as leaders was an ability to communicate the meaning and purpose of the wars in an intelligible, inspiring manner that helped energize and mobilize their people to make sacrifices necessary for victory.”
Does Obama sound like a wartime leader? Do other world leaders have confidence in his leadership? Hardly.
The regional organization, The Organization of American States (OAS) is a post-World War II body designed for countries in the Americas “to achieve an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence.” Sounds good, but the OAS is going away.
Its replacement is the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or Celac. Celac held its first meeting last year and it includes all the members of the OAS – except the United States and Canada. One of its purposes is to counter U.S. influence.
Latin America has, in effect, thrown us (and Canada) out of the OAS.
This is American leadership? Do other world leaders have confidence in Obama’s leadership? It is doubtful.
This year, Obama has canceled the agreement for the construction of the Keystone pipeline that would allow Canadian oil to flow through a pipeline to the United States, create 10,000 jobs and reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in a January 16 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News had this to say: “I think what’s happened around the Keystone is a wakeup call, the degree to which we [Canadians] are dependent or possibly held hostage to decisions in the United States, and especially decisions that may be made for very bad political reasons. … it puts an emphasis on the fact that we must perform our regulatory processes to get timely decisions on diversification of our markets,” (my emphasis).
Is this leadership in energy independence? Is this leadership in stabilizing the long term cost of oil and gasoline? Do other world leaders have confidence in his leadership? Definitely not.
Could Romney be a better leader?
Obama is president and has a leadership record. We don’t know if Romney could be better than Obama. Maybe a better question is could he be worse?
Quote without comment
The late Apple Inc. cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs, to his biographer Walter Isaacson, in 2010: “[President Obama] is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done. It infuriates me.”