Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Not just perceptions -- Obama's problem is truly poor leadership

If you believe Richard Cohen at the WaPo today, Obama suffers from Jimmy Carter's problem of perception:
Carter's energy program was right on the money. The message was fine; the messenger was awful. This is exactly the case with Obama, who is far more likable than Carter, yet is being cuffed around in a similar manner. Being right is nice. Convincing others you are is essential.

Obama's real problem is that he stops at being, at most, half right. After a rhetorical gesture in the right direction where reform, ("change we can believe in"), is needed he proceeds to muddle and mix the message with concessions to opponents who are mainly beneficiaries of the status quo. We get, therefore, bailouts but no real restructuring of a disfunctional banking system. He demands an AfPak exit strategy but agrees to a "surge" designed by his General in charge who says: "This is the kind of fight we're in for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives." Even his signature health care reform was basically abandoned by him leaving it to his Party in Congress to figure out, in negotiations with lobbyists, what exactly was to be done -- so even if somehow something was done right in the process it will not have been Obama's doing.

If anything, Obama's rhetoric has been over bold compared to what he has actually been prepared to fight for. To go by his rhetoric, it can be possible to view Obama as a "socialist" or a "Kenyan anticolonialist" or even a "community organizer", but when it comes to his actual accomplishments he is just another patsy for the corporatist and militarist elites.

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