Monday, March 23, 2009

Bailing Out Obama

Yesterday Tom Friedman offered President Obama some leadership advice.

His column tries to be even-handed. It blames Congressional Republicans and President Obama for the current leadership deficit. Link here.

Balance is well and good, except where there is no real equivalence between the power of the president and the power of Eric Cantor.

Friedman calls out Eric Cantor by name for being clueless, but does not even mention the far more powerful and influential House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Nor does he mention that Speaker Pelosi has used her considerable power to freeze House Republicans out of the legislative process.

In our time of national crisis Obama and Pelosi have brought extreme partisanship into our politics.

And why attack Eric Cantor for not being sufficiently serious when the national mood is being set by the president, a master of the unserious.

Most importantly, Friedman asks why Obama has been having so much trouble inspiring the country to join the fight against the recession.

The short answer is that Obama is not merely fighting the recession. He has introduced so many different proposals that he, and the country, has become unfocused. The second reason is that he is spending so much time stoking anger and dividing the country: rich against poor; bankers against workers; Republicans against Democrats.

No president is going to inspire the nation and produce a national unity of purpose when he keeps blaming others for the crisis. When Obama says that he inherited the crisis, he is simply abrogating responsibility.

In fact, Obama did not inherit the crisis. He bought it. He fought to get his hands on it; he worked long and hard to make it his own.

If he now wants to wash his hands of it, that would hardly encourage purposive action.

Friedman hopes that Obama will learn to inspire people to do the right thing. He credits Dov Seidman, author of a book entitled "How," with developing the concept.

Take the concept seriously and you have to ask yourself whether you think that Obama knows how to lead. Friedman keeps hoping that he does, but his hope seems to be fading.

Obama does not seem to know "how" to focus. He does not seem to know "how" to set the right emotional tone. He does not seem to know "how" to unite the nation in common cause. And he does not seem to know "how" to rise above partisanship and mythmaking. He seems to revel in it.

Right now, Obama is doing what he knows "how" to do. He is acting like the community organizer in chief.

Community organizers like ACORN make a living stoking populist anger against the rich and the successful. ACORN heard that Obama was angry about the AIG bonuses, so it organized bus tours on the homes of said executives.

And community organizers think that everything can be solved by income redistribution which will produce something called social justice, no matter what effect it has on the economy.

To a community organizer there is no such thing as a loyal opposition whose views need to be acknowledged and incorporated in legislation. If the opposition represents wealth and if wealth is thievery... then compromise would not be the right thing to do.

What is good for a community organizer is certainly not going to inspire the nation.

We will know that Obama has learned "how" to lead when he stands up to Speaker Pelosi, not minority whip Cantor. And we will know it as well when he starts speaking respectfully about his predecessor.

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