Time to Act Like a President
By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Sooner or later it is going to occur to Barack Obama that he is the president of the United States. As of yet, though, he does not act that way, appearing promiscuously on television and granting interviews like the presidential candidate he no longer is. The election has been held, but the campaign goes on and on. The candidate has yet to become commander in chief.
It doesn't end there. He had a lot to say. Much of with I agree with. Sometimes Cohen rubs me the wrong way. Sometimes I think he is spot on. I respect him for that. He goes from asshole to kindred spirit on my meter, and sometimes his volume even goes up to 11. I liked the column and I recomend it.
The trouble with Obama is that he gets into the moment and means what he says for that moment only. He meant what he said when he called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" -- and now is not necessarily so sure. He meant what he said about the public option in his health-care plan -- and then again maybe not. He would not prosecute CIA agents for getting rough with detainees -- and then again maybe he would.
Most tellingly, he gave Congress an August deadline for passage of health-care legislation -- "Now, if there are no deadlines, nothing gets done in this town . . . " -- and then let it pass. It seemed not to occur to Obama that a deadline comes with a consequence -- meet it or else.
Obama lost credibility with his deadline-that-never-was, and now he threatens to lose some more with his posturing toward Iran.
I have constantly had the feeling that the campaign was never over. It is an uneasy feeling to have an American President still on the campaign trail. At some point he has to lead. It appears obvious to me that if both Richard Cohen and I can see eye to eye on this, we are not the only ones that feel this way.
Howard Fineman of Newsweek has this article:
The Limits of Charisma
Mr. President, please stay off TV.
As much as I respect Richard Cohen every now and then, I have to bear no such respect for Howard Fineman. But even he beats the drum:
If ubiquity were the measure of a presidency, Barack Obama would already be grinning at us from Mount Rushmore. But of course it is not. Despite his many words and television appearances, our elegant and eloquent president remains more an emblem of change than an agent of it. He's a man with an endless, worthy to-do list—health care, climate change, bank reform, global capital regulation, AfPak, the Middle East, you name it—but, as yet, no boxes checked "done." This is a problem that style will not fix. Unless Obama learns to rely less on charm, rhetoric, and good intentions and more on picking his spots and winning in political combat, he's not going to be reelected, let alone enshrined in South Dakota.
The president's problem isn't that he is too visible; it's the lack of content in what he says when he keeps showing up on the tube. Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words "I" and "my." (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story.
The article is shocking coming from Fineman. I never thought I would ever quote the man. I don't hold him in high regard. I quote him to say: "For the love of God, if Fineman can see it we have really hit the wall".
And bad news for Obama comes in threes for sure. Just when you thought it was bad for our Messiah, the fucking French even pile on. Here is Nicholas Sarkozy's take on our embattled savior:
French Atomic Pique
Sarkozy unloads on Obama's 'virtual' disarmament reality.
"We are right to talk about the future," Mr. Sarkozy said, referring to the U.S. resolution on strengthening arms control treaties. "But the present comes before the future, and the present includes two major nuclear crises," i.e., Iran and North Korea. "We live in the real world, not in a virtual one." No prize for guessing into which world the Frenchman puts Mr. Obama.
"We say that we must reduce," he went on. "President Obama himself has said that he dreams of a world without nuclear weapons. Before our very eyes, two countries are doing exactly the opposite at this very moment. Since 2005, Iran has violated five Security Council Resolutions . . .
"I support America's 'extended hand.' But what have these proposals for dialogue produced for the international community? Nothing but more enriched uranium and more centrifuges. And last but not least, it has resulted in a statement by Iranian leaders calling for wiping off the map a Member of the United Nations. What are we to do? What conclusions are we to draw? At a certain moment hard facts will force us to make decisions."
We thought we'd never see the day when the President of France shows more resolve than America's Commander in Chief for confronting one of the gravest challenges to global security. But here we are.
Getting undressed and flogged by the French President? Are you fucking serious?
But of course he is not serious. Obama probably has another campaign speech scheduled for tomorrow. Takes me back to Rudi's speach at the Convention. This man has never run a damn thing but a campaign. Never had to make a payroll. Never accomplished anything in his life outside of public office.
Obama really has no clue as to how the world works. I never thought I would miss George W. Bush. The so called: "Worst. President. Ever." suddenly looks like a lot better option than people believed at the time.
May God Bless us all. We are going to need it. Sphere: Related Content