Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

The president may not have what it takes

March 11, 2009

Obama still has the approval of the people, but the establishment is beginning to mumble that the president may not have what it takes.

by Howard Fineman

Surfer that he is, President Obama should know a riptide when he’s in one. The center usually is the safest, most productive place in politics, but perhaps not now, not in a once-in-a-century economic crisis.

Swimming in the middle, he’s denounced as a socialist by conservatives, criticized as a polite accommodationist by government-is-the-answer liberals, and increasingly, dismissed as being in over his head by technocrats.

Luckily for Obama, the public still likes and trusts him, at least judging by the latest polls, including NEWSWEEK‘s. But, in ways both large and small, what’s left of the American establishment is taking his measure and, with surprising swiftness, they are finding him lacking.

They have some reasons to be concerned. I trace them to a central trait of the president’s character: he’s not really an in-your-face guy. By recent standards—and that includes Bill Clinton as well as George Bush—Obama for the most part is seeking to govern from the left, looking to solidify and rely on his own party more than woo Republicans. And yet he is by temperament judicious, even judicial. He’d have made a fine judge. But we don’t need a judge. We need a blunt-spoken coach.

Obama may be mistaking motion for progress, calling signals for a game plan. A busy, industrious overachiever, he likes to check off boxes on a long to-do list. A genial, amenable guy, he likes to appeal to every constituency, or at least not write off any. A beau ideal of Harvard Law, he can’t wait to tackle extra-credit answers on the exam.

But there is only one question on this great test of American fate: can he lead us away from plunging into another Depression?

If the establishment still has power, it is a three-sided force, churning from inside the Beltway, from Manhattan-based media and ….

Read the rest:

All The President’s Men: Where’s The Congressional Oversight?

Economic Situation Demads Nation, Politics With War Mindset

China Provoked Obama; Now Works To Smooth Situation: Why?

Losing Terror War? Al Qaeda, Afghanistan, Iran

Obama Policy On Gitmo, Taliban, Afghanistan, Intel: As Stupid as It Gets

Buffett: Obama not at war; has toxic message machine on economy

No Leadership: It’ll Take More Than Money to Fix This Crisis

Obama: Pragmatism Without Vision

February 11, 2009

If Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was smooth and deep like the rivers, his first few weeks in Washington have been turbulent and shallow like the rapids. It began with the quick end of the Bill Richardson nomination, revealing a vetting process with the thoroughness of a subprime loan application. Then came an inaugural address so flat that both supporters and detractors wondered if the flatness was intentional — a subtle game of strategic mediocrity. Then the broad violation of an overbroad lobbying ban, which made no distinction between lobbying for the Iranian regime and lobbying against teenage smoking. Then a spate of IRS troubles, leaving the impression of an administration more interested in raising taxes than paying them.

By Michael Gerson
The Washington Post

These stumbles have had an almost theological effect among Republicans: The doctrine of Obama’s political infallibility has been challenged. But the administration’s setbacks — particularly those on personnel — are temporary, and easily reversed by a series of legislative victories that have already begun.

The initial period of the Obama administration, however, has provided hints of a long-term problem — not one of incompetence, but of emptiness.

Obama partisans would doubtless call this “pragmatism.” His inaugural address included one of the most prominent defenses of that political philosophy in American history. “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them,” he informed Americans who hold old-fashioned ideological beliefs, “that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works. . . .”

This approach has earned Obama praise for his prudence, independent thinking, epistemological modesty, empiricism, curiosity, results orientation, lack of dogmatism, distaste for extremism, willingness to compromise and insistence on nuance. He has been compared to William James and John Dewey, the heroes of American pragmatism.

But that creed has now been tested in two areas. First, the new president deferred almost entirely to the Democratic congressional leadership on the initial shape of the stimulus package — which, in turn, was shaped by pent-up Democratic spending appetites instead of by an explainable economic theory. Senate modifications made the legislation marginally more responsible. But Obama’s pragmatism, in this case, was a void of creativity, filled by the most aggressively ideological branch of government. And this managed to revive Republican ideological objections to federal overreach. In the new age of pragmatism, all the ideologues seem to be encouraged.

The second test of Obama’s pragmatism has been education. During his campaign for president, Obama’s post-partisan appeal was most credible — to me and to others — on education reform. He supported test-based accountability and merit pay for teachers — significant departures from the education union agenda.

But education spending in the stimulus — about $140 billion in the House and $80 billion in the Senate — has little or no emphasis on teacher quality in schools with high ratios of minorities, little or no emphasis on strengthening charter schools, little or no emphasis on improved assessment, little or no emphasis on teaching the basics of reading. With shrinking state and local education budgets, an increase in federal spending may be justified. But the administration’s approach abandons the most basic principle of school improvement: reform, and then resources.

The philosophic pragmatism of John Dewey involved, in his words, “variability, initiative, innovation, departure from routine, experimentation.” On education, the Obama administration has displayed none of these qualities. Instead, it has returned to an older kind of pragmatism — the political pragmatism of paying off one’s political supporters. The problem with this approach is not merely its cost to the Treasury but its cost to children. Schools have proved for decades that there is little correlation between their consumption of resources and their training of children in the basics of reading and math. When positive outcomes are not required and measured, they should not be expected.

The educational betrayal of disadvantaged children is the tragedy that causes no scandal. Most Democrats in Congress seem content to represent education unions. Most Republicans oppose federal standards as a matter of ideology. Governors, both Democratic and Republican, are only too happy to take federal money without accountability. If a president does not speak for struggling children in failing schools, they will be ignored. As they are being ignored.

It is still early in the Obama era. But it is already evident that pragmatism without a guiding vision or a fighting faith can become little more than the service of insistent political interests.

Senator Critical Of President for Not Leading on Stimulus; Calls Effort “Crazy,” Bill “Monstrosity”

February 5, 2009

An emotional Senator Lindsey Graham said Thursday that President Obama was not leading on the economic stimulus and his effort to spent $1 trillion “overnight” was “crazy.”

The stimulus package now calls for almost $900 billion in spending and the interest on the debt/loan could be $300 billion.

“I like President Obama but giving TV interviews is not leading.  Having lunch with people is not leading.  Scaring people is not leading,” Senator Graham said.

He said he was hoping to see the president get Congressional leaders together to make a better stimulus bill.

The South Carolina Republican was unusually harsh on President Obama and the process to pass the stimulus in the Senate, a process he called “crazy,” “stupid,” and a “waste of time.”

“This is not bipartisan at all.  I want to help the president on Gitmo, on the stimulus and on other things for our country but this is just a waste of time,” Garaham said.

He called the House stimulus package a “monstrosity.”

John E. Carey
Wakefield Chapel, Virginia

Lindsey Graham
Lindsey Graham

Stimulus Passage? Obama Says “Cautiously Optimistic” But Some Dem Senators Wonder

 Stimulus: Master of The Message, No Drama Obama Losing?

White House Demonizes Senate Republicans on Terrible Stimulus Package; Why No Senate Dems Embrace This Stimulus?

 Obama Was Cheated: House Stimulus a Nancy Pelosi Crime

Despite Setbacks, America Needs To Lead the Way

December 21, 2008

We bankrupted ourselves first ideologically through unilateralism, then militarily through “global war,” and now financially through the debt crisis. Rising great powers, we are told, now lead the way.

But where do we locate this new leadership? In Europe’s self-absorption over its rising Muslim quotient? In Russia’s self-inflicted economic penance for its smackdown of Georgia? In India’s crippling obsession with Pakistan? In  China’s super-cooling economy and the social unrest it’ll trigger? In  Japan’s … whatever Japan is doing nowadays?

So which foreign leader has captured the world’s attention with his promise of changed leadership? Ah, that would be Barack Obama, president-elect of that has-been superpower.

Thomas P.M. Barnett
The Washington Times

Amidst the most destabilizing global economic crisis since the Great Depression, no great power has stuck its neck out to claim new authority in the international system. Instead, our presidential interregnum has triggered an odd calm, with even last month’s global economic summit effectively postponed until Mr. Obama’s inauguration.

I’m not suggesting we haven’t reached the end of an era, because we have, just that the new boss is going to look an awfully lot like the old boss.

The world remains a dangerous place. Not in terms of state-on-state war, but because the previously enclave West has exposed itself, through globalization’s rapid expansion, to a host of lower-trust environments – the “wild” East and South.

So failed states rank higher than Pentagon fantasies of high-tech war with our biggest creditor, China. So do transnational terrorists capable of temporarily sowing chaos across networks, like they recently did in Mumbai.

Read the rest: