Conservatives love to despise Barack Obama. The first reason is because he was a neophyte with little experience that rose to the top leadership position in the world, mostly riding his media status. Second, because he is arrogant and espouses his moral superiority, even when being a hypocrite about it. Third, because his own analysis of his leadership skills is woefully incorrect.
On most of the grand issues of the day, Mr. Obama has taken the wrong path. He could have built a stimulus program in early 2009 that actually promoted job growth. He could have pushed Democrats to build a health care plan that reduced and restrained costs instead of increasing them. And then for the last two years, he could have pushed tax reform and entitlement changes instead of reverting to the classic tax and spend mantra that has haunted liberals for decades.
But he has always taken a pass.
Last week proves hope springs eternal. Mr. Obama invited a group of Republican Senators to dinner to talk about how to move forward in his final four years as an American President. And according to reports, Obama was more open and honest than he has been in the past.
Despite liberal whining about how much Barack Obama has had to endure from Republicans, the reality is he has never faced an opponent greater than himself. Obama’s primary problem through out his Presidency is the inability to tell everyone, including his own party, to ‘Go to hell’, and simply lead on an issue.
Leadership, true leadership, begets public support. See Rand Paul’s crusade on civil rights and drones last week, ironically occurring the same time as Obama’s dinner round table with the GOP. This wasn’t an issue that the media, Republicans or Democrats for the most part cared about. But the public did care. There is a growing unease of the every expanding power of the President when it comes to such things as drones. Paul simply was willing to take a stand, even if he knew there was no path to victory in his endeavor.
Obama has never done that. Can you think of a stand Obama took that was not cautious, thought out, and strategically positioned in such a way that Obama could either back down or blame someone else for its failure?
During his dinner with the GOP, Obama seemed reluctant to lead on the issues, again. From Peggy Noonan, from an unnamed Senator at the meeting:
Senator No. 1: When pressed on the question, the president seemed to step back. “His idea of a process is, ‘You guys figure it out and work with my staff, and if you need me call me.’ But in the end, unless the president really gets engaged and forces meeting after meeting, I don’t see how you get past the logjam.”
Senator No. 2: “At the end I mentioned, ‘Share [with us] how you see this going forward.’ ” Here the president “got hazy. . . . I told him this will never work without adult supervision from the White House. I don’t think he comprehends that this is part of getting something done.”
Senator No. 2 said he planned to “press” the president in coming days “to lead, to exert authority.”
Obama, at this moment, has a chance to lead. What does he honestly have to lose? He was a solid victory for re-election, is the undisputed leader of his party, with Democrats (even if they disagree with him) willing to go to the mat for him. He will never face election again, and the only thing remaining in his future his his legacy, which at the moment, is mixed.
But is the President willing to use that political capital? The above quotes lead you to believe the answer is ‘No’. A report from the Politico states more than half of the Democrats in Congress oppose any changes to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, which is fiscally insane. Another quote from Noonan’s article:
At certain points in the conversation the president, according to the senator, said that even if he wanted to agree with the Republicans on certain specific questions there would be a rebellion in his own party: “He said that a few times. But that’s an abdication. You have to lead! You have to educate as only a president can with a bully pulpit, you have to bring your party along.”
Tuesday was the first time that I can remember that President Obama speaking to his liberal caucus, and telling them hard truths. Obama met with Senate Democrats, and was up front for the need for entitlement reform. He stated his need to exchange entitlement cuts for more taxes. We can debate the numbers and the actual specifics, but for Obama to tell liberals they will have fundamental changes to entitlement programs is some what of a breakthrough.
A tremendous amount of opposition to this kind of plan exists among the liberal base, and I am not sure that the President realizes what kind of fight he is in with his own party if he is honest about achieving these goals. And of course, from our side, we conservatives have a huge trust deficit with this President, after 5 years of having the football pulled out from under us, Charlie Brown-style. Mr. Obama will have to be forthright and honest through out the process to build enough respect and faith to get such a big deal done.
I have long said this is not an intellectual barrier for the President, but a psychological one. Barack Obama has long been a cautious person, unwilling to take public stands that reflect poorly on his character or his public persona. Maybe this is what comes from being America’s greatest African American politician; maybe it is a reflection of African American society today to avoid risk. I don’t know. But I know that reality exists for this man.
So ultimately, Mr. Obama could lead. He could get a grand bargain of tax reform, entitlement recalculation, and budgetary changes that could put the country on a long term path of fiscal sanity and economic prosperity. It would mean he would have to compromise with the GOP and push back against liberals in his own party. Ironically, I seem to believe the latter is much harder for this President than the former.
This was cross posted at Neoavatara.