In today’s Salon, Frank Rich writes a lengthy rebuttal to Paul Krugman’s odd and counterintuitive Rolling Stone article lavishing praise on Obama’s presidency. Rich was an enthusiastic supporter of the Senator from Illinois when he ran for the nation’s top office in 2008, and tried to hold on to it through Obama’s early years, but, like many on the Left, he had to eventually succumb to reality. Obama has been a great disappointment. For me, all of Rich’s arguments boil down to a simple fact: Obama is not a leader.
For all of his oratorical skills, Obama simply could not or would not back up his words with action. Unlike another great orator, Martin Luther King, Jr., Obama talked the talk but didn’t walk the walk. He didn’t lead the march or galvanize the community or put his personal safety on the line for his beliefs. His words were intended to inspire, but his actions were consistently weak and ineffectual. Maybe we’ll learn from some tell all book in the future that Obama was surrounded by advisors who gave consistently bad advice, but if Obama is one thing, he’s intelligent. It’s just hard to imagine the man meekly taking orders from others, orders that he knew were wrong or mistaken.
As Rich points out, Obama had a real opportunity to move this country in a new direction during his first years in office, but instead he hedged and hawed, instituted half-measures and continued hoping for bipartisanship long after that ship had sailed. For reasons that still baffle me, right from the beginning he surrounded himself with Washington and Wall Street insiders, men and women who had no interest in the “change” he talked about in his campaign, and the results bear that out.
Being President of the United States can’t be easy, and turning a ship as large as this country in a new direction has to be daunting. The point that Rich makes and that I have made in the past, is that Obama never really tried. He never challenged Republicans in any meaningful way, never went to the American people to garner support, never stood his ground and fought for what was clearly right.
Obama’s opportunities as President have slipped away, despite Krugman’s late attempt to inject some energy into his administration. If predictions about the mid-term election prove true, he won’t be able to get anything through Congress and the bright torch of hope that has been dimming over the past six years will be permanently extinguished.