The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus, who has noticed Obama’s lack of of leadership many times in the past, notices it yet again
For a man who won office talking about change we can believe in, Barack Obama can be a strangely passive president. There are a startling number of occasions in which the president has been missing in action – unwilling, reluctant or late to weigh in on the issue of the moment. He is, too often, more reactive than inspirational, more cautious than forceful.
Each of these instances can be explained on its own terms, as matters of legislative strategy, geopolitical calculation or political prudence.
He didn’t want to get mired in legislative details during the health-care debate for fear of repeating the Clinton administration’s prescriptive, take-ours-or-leave-it approach. He doesn’t want to go first on proposing entitlement reform because history teaches that this is not the best route to a deal. He didn’t want to say anything too tough about Libya for fear of endangering Americans trapped there. He didn’t want to weigh in on the labor battle in Wisconsin because, well, it’s a swing state.
Yet the dots connect to form an unsettling portrait of a “Where’s Waldo?” presidency: You frequently have to squint to find the White House amid the larger landscape.
Oh, come on, Ruth, being president is hawd woik! Especially when he really has little clue as to what is going on and what he should do, plus, there are all those wonderful parties, golf outings, basketball games, and campaign events to attend. Oh, all right, that’s not entirely fair: the true answer is that it takes a real leader to get ahead of the curve, and come out and, well, lead. Obama’s only experience with leading was as a community agitator at a local level. That isn’t much in the way of experience in knowing what to do with big national and international issues.
Now, Obama may very well be doing things behind the scenes, but, this rarely translates into a coherent message for the American people to hear. It’s easy to give a pretty speech while running for President, promising people the world. It’s entirely another thing to give a speech to all Americans, and actually make decisions that count. The Politico’s Ben Smith attempts to defend Obama’s tepidness, yet, doesn’t quite make it work
The crisis in Libya, brought on by the bloodiest of the series of revolts in the Middle East and North Africa, is forcing President Barack Obama to balance his impulse to show American leadership at a historic moment with his sense of the limits of U.S. power and his multilateralist inclinations.
In other words, Obama doesn’t see America as anything special, can’t see that America has mostly been a nation that is a force of good, and isn’t just another country among equals. Interestingly, it never occurs to far left progressives, like Obama, that the power and might of the United States can be used to make the world better.
Prominent neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams have accused Obama of being slow to speak out in support of the revolt against Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi and for following the lead of European countries such as France to action. But even those critics are primarily calling for louder moral support for the “Arab Spring” and, in the case of Libya, a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone, not for American boots on the ground.
People on the left are calling for that, too, not just the “neoconservatives,” Ben.
Obama hasn’t spoken publicly about the civil strife in Libya since last week, but according to the White House, he has been working the phones with his counterparts in Europe and Canada, laying the groundwork for international action that began last weekend with the unusually swift passage by the United Nations Security Council of a resolution sanctioning the Libyan leadership and referring their actions to the International Criminal Court.
See? He’s been “working the phones” and doing things through the UN. Which has helped the Libyan rebels…..not one bit. Would some moral clarity help the rebels? It might let them know that the United States, the country that everyone else has always looked to when something big happens, is behind them, and could possibly turn a movement which could leave Libya with a government which is still anti-American into one that, if not pro-American/Western, at least one that can be worked with on a civil basis. Obama is great with the “bold visions” during speeches, but cannot seem to do the same when the real world comes calling.