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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The incredibly shrinking president

Ruth Marcus, not a raving conservative, expresses frustration with President Obama for being a "strangely passive president." She bemoans his lack of leadership on issues from the health care debate to the situation in Libya. She admits that she is ideologically supportive of Obama, but she sure wishes the guy would speak up.
Where, for example, is the president on the verge of a potential government shutdown - if not this week, then a few weeks from now?

Aside from a short statement from the Office of Management and Budget threatening a presidential veto of the House version of the funding measure, the White House - much to the frustration of some congressional Democrats - has been unclear in public and private about what cuts would and would not be acceptable.

By contrast, a few weeks before the shutdown in 1995, Clinton administration aides had dispatched Cabinet members and other high-ranking officials to spread the message that cuts in education, health care and housing would harm families and children. Obama seems more the passive bystander to negotiations between the House and Senate than the chief executive leading his party.
Well, she can take comfort in the tactical approach of Obama. If he doesn't say anything, then he doesn't open himself up to criticism for what he does or doesn't propose.

Marcus is waking up to the true character of President Obama that conservatives were highlighting back in 2007 and 2008. There is very little there there. He likes to make grandiose speeches with lots of fine rhetoric, but falls down when it comes to actual policy-making.
He performs best on a stage that permits the grandest sweep. He rises to the big occasion, from his inspiring introduction to the public in his 2004 Democratic convention speech to his healing words in the aftermath of the Tucson shootings.

The president has faltered, though, when called on to translate that rhetoric to more granular levels of specificity: What change, exactly, does he want people to believe in? How, even more exactly, does he propose to get there? "Winning the future" doesn't quite do it.
And when it comes to the major issue of our day - our nation's fiscal future, President Obama is ducking the question. He's fine with gestures, but not actual effort to address the looming crisis.
My biggest beef is with the president's slipperiness on fiscal matters. Obama has said he agrees with some of his fiscal commission's recommendations and disagrees with others. Which ones does he disagree with? I asked this question the other day of Austan Goolsbee, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Here's what I got: "The view espoused by some of the . . . commission that we ought to do Social Security 100 percent off of benefit cuts for sure he doesn't agree with." But of course, the plan that 11 of the commission members endorsed did nothing of the sort.

I was unfair to Goolsbee because I asked him a question he didn't have the leeway to answer. You can't blame the aide for ducking when the boss fudges.

Where's Obama? No matter how hard you look, sometimes he's impossible to find.
Well, Ms. Marcus, he is just doing what he has done so much of his political life. He is voting present.


Rick Caird said...

As I have been saying lately, Obama is the Cheshire cat without the grin. He is terrified of actually being on record. We could see that from the get-go with a "stimulus" designed by Pelosi and Reid followed by a health care bill with no input from the administration. When it comes down to the grunt work of making things happen, there are no grunts in the administration.

If they can" rule by decree", fine. Use the recess appointment to the nth degree. Issue executive orders, make command decisions, ignore courts, and never, never get involved with negotiations where it is plain there is nothing behind this president.

I repeat over and over again, there has never been a hint of any kind of special intelligence for Obama other than the intelligence of the slacker who manages to avoid doing much of anythings. Bring on the MoTown parties, the big jets, the bands, the vacations, and the foreign travel. They are all good. Actual work, not so much.

LarryD said...

During his Senate stint he never co-authored a bill, and he voted present on all of the controversial issues.

He's never held a leadership position before in his life.

What was Marcus expecting?

The Looking Spoon said...

I know this is a shameless plug, but Ms. Marcus is about one month too late on this concept, my idea was a bit more graphic:

ic said...

He loves flying his personal trainer from Chicago every week, Chicago pizzas too, the Mrs. enjoys her Antoinnette trips and skiing with her kids. Other than that, don't Americans say they are grown ups, why don't they take care of themselves?

Frankly, it's better that he leads from behind. I'm also glad that even leftists notice the right wingnuts are not racists when they criticize the One who happens to have a darker skin shade. We right wingers care more about our money, e.g. earn a living without handing half of it to the govt.; and our kids don't have to go to China for their jobs.

pumping-irony said...

Sorry Ruth, but it's the fault of you and so many others in your profession that the country is being run by an empty suit. So many times in 2008 it was pointed out to you that Obama's lack of experience, his postage-stamp resume, his spotty record and his propensity for associating with dubious characters made it unlikely he would be a good statesman and leader. Instead of delving into these issues, the majority of the media chose rather to investigate those who raised the questions (the MSM told us more about Joe The Plumber's character than it did about Obama's.) Now as the fool stumbles from one disaster to another, the Ruth Marcuses of the world whine about how frustrated they are that Obama is perpetually a few days late and a few trillion dollars short.

I have no sympathy. Ruth, this whole mess could've been avoided if you and your fellow useful idiots did their jobs two years ago. Now, go take a long walk off a short pier.