It seems obvious: leaders lead. In time of trouble leaders step forth to take charge.
Even when there is very little a leader can do, he must appear to be in charge.
You are not going to do your best when you feel that your group is facing a crisis and you believe that your leader has given up, has gone AWOL, or is out partying.
In her column this morning Peggy Noonan points out that President Obama seems not to understand this aspect of leadership. He does not know that presidents must always appear to be presidential.
In Noonan’s words:
President Obama's problem now isn't what Wisconsin did, it's how he looks each day—careening around, always in flight, a superfluous figure. No one even looks to him for leadership now. He doesn't go to Wisconsin, where the fight is. He goes to Sarah Jessica Parker's place, where the money is.
Obama is giving the impression that, for him, being president means hanging out with celebrities. He seems to care more about having a place among the celebrity swells than about leading the nation.
Recently, Obama’s administration has been leaking classified information at a frightening rate. Most observers believe that it is part of the Obama re-election strategy. His campaign wants to shore up the president’s credentials as a strong commander-in-chief.
Yesterday, flanked by Republican and Democratic Congressmen, Sen. Dianne Feinstein sounded the alarm. Foreign governments are refusing to share intelligence with us because they fear that the Obama administration will compromise sources.
Most ominously, there are the national-security leaks that are becoming a national scandal—the "avalanche of leaks," according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, that are somehow and for some reason coming out of the administration….
And where is the president in all this? On his way to Anna Wintour's house. He's busy. He's running for president.
But why? He could be president now if he wanted to be.
The last line is wonderful. Obama is so busy running for office that he has doesn't have time to be the president. I disagree mildly with Noonan here. I do not think that Obama could be president if he wanted to.
Obama is a great campaigner. He has mastered the job of campaigner-in-chief. He is out campaigning because that is what he does best. After more than three years in the White House he still does not know how to be president.
Now he is hoping that no one will notice. He wants to win because he wants reassurance that no one sees that he, like the fabled Emperor, is not wearing the trappings of office.
Who is playing the naïve boy in the Hans Christian Andersen story who sees the truth about the President's new clothes? Noonan nominates Bill Clinton.
Democrats are saying the Bill Clinton has lost it, that he is getting old, and that he has gone off message. But, as Dick Morris has pointed out, Bill Clinton never goes off message.
In Noonan’s words:
But maybe Bubba's looking at the president and seeing what far more than half of Washington sees: a man who is limited, who thinks himself clever, and who doesn't know that clever right now won't cut it.
Because Bill Clinton loves politics, he hates losers. Maybe he just can't resist sticking it to them a little, when he gets a chance.