By now you would think that everyone knows. No one should be surprised that the Barack Obama has been stoking the nation’s divisions. He seems to see it as his last, best hope for re-election.
Yet, no less than Colin Powell sat down with Christiane Amanpour last Sunday to commiserate about how an unholy alliance of the Tea Party and the media was dividing America.
One expects as much from a fierce partisan like Amanpour, but Colin Powell should know better. Admittedly, he was responding to loaded questions, but still, Powell might have placed some responsibility on the man in charge. He didn’t, and it does not speak well of him.
In the meantime, famed hedge fund manager and former Goldman Sachs partner Leon Cooperman has seen the light.
In the world of finance Cooperman is one of the most successful and respected people you have never heard of. In his recent open letter to the president he sounds like someone who once supported Obama but who has lately joined the growing list of corporate and media titans who are disillusioned with the man from Chicago.
Cooperman’s ideas are not original. They have been widely circulated, on this blog, among other places.
But, given the source and given the passion, they are highly newsworthy.
Cooperman grants that Obama inherited a difficult situation.
(In truth, Obama did not inherit anything, in the strict sense of the word. He wanted the job. He fought to have the job. The word “inherit” incorrectly suggests a type of woe-is-me passivity.)
After Cooperman acknowledges how bad the situation was when Obama took office, he adds that: “the policy response on your watch has been profligate and largely ineffectual.”
Not exactly a vote of confidence.
Next Cooperman offers a scathing indictment of Obama’s moral leadership.
In his words: “But what I can justifiably hold you accountable for is your and your minions' role in setting the tenor of the rancorous debate now roiling us that smacks of what so many have characterized as ‘class warfare’. Whether this reflects your principled belief that the eternal divide between the haves and have-nots is at the root of all the evils that afflict our society or just a cynical, populist appeal to his base by a president struggling in the polls is of little importance. What does matter is that the divisive, polarizing tone of your rhetoric is cleaving a widening gulf, at this point as much visceral as philosophical, between the downtrodden and those best positioned to help them. It is a gulf that is at once counterproductive and freighted with dangerous historical precedents. And it is an approach to governing that owes more to desperate demagoguery than your Administration should feel comfortable with.”
I like the phrase, “desperate demagoguery.” It encapsulates the Obama leadership doctrine.
Cooperman adds some thoughts about presidential leadership: “But as President first and foremost and leader of your party second, you should endeavor to rise above the partisan fray and raise the level of discourse to one that is both more civil and more conciliatory, that seeks collaboration over confrontation. That is what ‘leading by example’ means to most people.”
Cooperman understands what Powell doesn’t. The president sets the moral tone of the national debate and that Obama has clearly chosen to divide the nation.
Perhaps Obama believes that the rich are to blame for everything that has gone wrong in his presidency. Perhaps he is simply using a cynical ploy to get elected.
At the least, we should not call it leadership.
Cooperman understands that Obama is governing like a community organizer. I hope that no one is surprised, but his analysis is on point.
Where Colin Powell and Christiane Amanpour see the Tea Party and the media standing in the way of compromise, Cooperman sees more clearly.
In his words: “With due respect, Mr. President, it's time for you to throttle-down the partisan rhetoric and appeal to people's better instincts, not their worst. Rather than assume that the wealthy are a monolithic, selfish and unfeeling lot who must be subjugated by the force of the state, set a tone that encourages people of good will to meet in the middle. When you were a community organizer in Chicago, you learned the art of waging a guerilla campaign against a far superior force. But you've graduated from that milieu and now help to set the agenda for that superior force. You might do well at this point to eschew the polarizing vernacular of political militancy and become the transcendent leader you were elected to be. You are likely to be far more effective, and history is likely to treat you far more kindly for it.”
Anyone who voted for Barack Obama because he thought Obama would be a “transcendent leader” should do some serious self-examination.
I am as much in favor of keeping hope alive as the next guy, but Barack Obama does not have it in him to be the kind of leader Cooperman wants him to be.
He is who he is. He is not, at this stage, going to become someone else.