Last evening Barack Obama took to the podium in the House of Representatives to show the world that thirty-two months as president of the United States have taught him nothing about how to lead.
The ideas were familiar. The rhetoric was new. For a leader Obama’s rhetoric was completely wrong.
Anyone who saw the speech as a serious attempt to address the problem of American joblessness does not understand the basics of executive leadership.
Anyone who saw Obama projecting strength and power does not understand that leadership has nothing to do with imposing your will on the world, or even on Republicans.
Querulous and combative, Obama failed to take any responsibility for the current state of the American labor market.
A leader takes responsibility. If the country is in dire economic straits, he owes it an acknowledgment that his leadership has failed.
Obama was talking as though someone else had been president these past few years. He was talking as a candidate, but pretending to be the president.
By giving a campaign speech before a joint session of Congress Obama violated protocol and politicized a unifying ceremony.
Once he did that he was in no position to accuse anyone of putting party over country.
A leader identifies with his country. His good is identical to the country’s good. With Obama his political fortunes always precede the good of the country.
A leader shows respect for those he is asking to follow him. Obama harangued Congressional Republicans, as though he thought he could convince the nation that they were in charge for the first years of his administration.
He did not address his remarks to the entirety of Congress. He divided the Congress as he has divided the nation.
Leaders unite; they do not divide the House against itself.
Obama did not attempt to persuade anyone of the merits of his position. He did not address objections to his views. He did not suggest listening to opposing ideas. He did not suggest negotiation.
Instead, he threatened Republicans. He tried to bully them. He told them that they had no choice but to pass the bill.
Leaders do not tell other people what they think, and do not try to force them to act as he wishes them to act.
Obama even tried to deprive Congressional Republicans of their own deliberative judgment. By announcing that they had supported all of his proposals at one time or another, he was telling them that they had no right to do otherwise than as he demanded.
Leaders do not demand. They propose and invite.
Obama does not seem to know that the American Congress does not report to the American president. Even if it did, such language would not have been appropriate.
Note well that Obama has never been bipartisan. During his first two years, he passed his signature pieces of legislation during his first two years with, for all intents and purposes, only Democratic votes. Last night was yet another exercise in partisan demagoguery.
A leader does not make promises he cannot keep. He certainly does not make threats he cannot back up.
Telling Congressional Republicans that he will sic the American people on them if they do not do as he says implies that he believes that the general public is on his side.
Increasingly, it is not.
Obama’s grandiose posturing failed to recognize that the American public has tuned him out. If he thinks that his wish is their command, he is about to have a very rude awakening.
You aren’t a leader if nobody is following. If Republicans refuse to pass Obama’s new piece of legislation—a near-certainty—they will show the world that he is all bluster, all posturing, all attitude, and no leadership.
And one thing we are confident about: Congress will neither enact nor reject Obama’s jobs bill.
In effect, it will enact some parts and ignore the rest.
Rhetoric is the art of persuasion. It requires you to craft your sentences to make them most persuasive. On this score, Barack Obama has just failed… extravagantly.