My oldest son who assures me weekly that Barack Obama hung the moon owes me a cold beer for these words. Its been a bittersweet week having been put in the unusual position of sincerely congratulating the work of President Obama. That work of course, is the leadership he displayed in not only green lighting the mission to take Osama bin Laden but the way in which it was to be accomplished. Big risk, big reward. To be entirely honest this episode spoke more to the work of CIA Director Leon Panetta, the Pentagon apparatus, the quiet professionals of our Special Forces teams and most ironically, those ‘inhumane’ Guantanamo interrogators who extracted such actionable information. One would hope through this experience that President Obama would understand from here out that when one embraces the notion of American exceptionalism and allows it the freedom to operate ….. good things inevitably happen.
What adds the sweet to the bitter in this particular scenario is that he was very un-Barack in his behavior. He became quite cowboy-ish for an academician from Chicago. Dare I say W-ish? From the gutsy insertion of Navy SEAL Team 6 across the Pakistani border with a weapons free rule of engagement order to use deadly force if necessary, to not tipping off Ms. Rice at the United Nations, all the way to giving complete disregard for a protocol of communicating with Pakistan’s leadership. This is the stuff of which “October surprises” are comprised that tend to get presidents reelected for a second term. Alas, it was only April 2011. The nice poll bump Obama is receiving for this specific accomplishment will likely be short lived and it will be a distant memory when he will need it the most 18 months from now. I suspect however, that Hollywood will cover this memory loss as the blockbuster movie “Last Night in Abbottabad” will open in theaters some time in October 2012.
But there is a greater issue which he and his power base seem to have difficulty dealing with; leading like a president in whom Americans have grown up recognizing and relating to as ‘their’ leader of the free world.
Dismissing the fact that the Republicans can’t come up with a viable presidential candidate thus far, if the election was held next week Barack Obama would face grave difficulty getting reelected on the merits of a single one of his own initiatives.
His outsourced healthcare plan is being constitutionally challenged in court by 26 states, the totality of his energy plan is unrealistic and incoherent in its current form, the financial stimulus plan he championed to restore the economy has proven to be an $800bn taxpayer millstone with the reported unemployment rate still in the 9% range. Meanwhile, as the economy languishes and the dollar’s value erodes; his chief economic wizards – Bernanke and Geithner have lost any sense of credibility with the man on the street. The Middle East remains the steaming cauldron it always was except that now we’ve even alienated our allies in Israel. When the administration’s roster of secretary(s) and czars are scrutinized alongside their departmental initiatives, Americans who pay attention to such things are blogging and screaming, “how did we get here”?
Not wanting to pile on, let’s just say the list could easily go on.
What is interesting to note is that this administration has had the most success in weekly job approval polls when they have gotten off the Hope and Change train driven by the far left locomotive and returned to some proven methods and avenues of the past. To date, President Obama’s most enduring gains have come directly as a result of extending, promoting, or rewording much of the doctrine that was left to him by his predecessor; reenlisting Defense Sec. Bill Gates, exporting the surge strategy to Afghanistan, rethinking Gitmo, empowering General David Petraeus, re-opening military tribunals, eschewing the UN whenever possible, employing the Patriot Act, not thinking you can negotiate or trust a sworn enemy, signing a school voucher plan, and acting unilaterally when appropriate as a world power.
The ability to give a great speech that transcends the typical campaign rhetoric should not define a leader, much less the President of the United States. What does is being able to step down from the podium and cobble together strategies that create bona fide success stories on a large scale of the things you just spoke about. If you connect the speeches with actual results over the last 30 months it casts a fairly grim picture of leadership until last week.
For this week however, Barack Obama has put himself under a different lens where he received good and worthy reviews from both sides of the aisle in spite of some fairly silly White House embellishments on the success. When all is said and done it was President Obama‘s finest hour in office. Absent a credible Republican challenger, if he envisions any chance of getting reelected in 2012 in the current domestic malaise Obama would do well over the next year to consider a simple ‘take away’ from this most recent experience: attempt less transforming and accomplish more fine tuning of what made America great and it’s citizens exceptional. There are intrinsic and well thought-out reasons why the US did things in certain ways before Barack Obama got to town …. and it turns out that not all of them are outdated, irrelevant or unenlightened.
Just maybe the cowboy and his posse that turned the keys over to him in 2008 wasn’t as dumb as many thought they were. Now if I could just get my son to acknowledge that, I’d gladly buy the second round.