Now that Tea-party Republicans and Standard & Poor’s have tanked the US economy, everyone is telling President Obama what he should and shouldn’t have done and what a huge disappointment he is. Politicians on both sides of the aisle, scholars, pundits, talk-show hosts, even comedians, seem to know exactly what the President should have done to win the debt-ceiling war and are shaming him publicly for what they see as lack of leadership.
In a New York Times Op-Ed on Sunday, psychology professor Drew Western goes back to the day of Obama’s inauguration to point out how disappointing his lackluster speech was. He even offers a sample passage of what would have been a great inaugural speech. I remember being a bit disappointed with the lack of fervor in Obama’s speech but I didn’t see that as an early sign of weakness.
He goes on to say: “the president is fond of referring to ‘the arc of history,’ paraphrasing the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous statement that ‘the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.’ But with his deep-seated aversion to conflict and his profound failure to understand bully dynamics — in which conciliation is always the wrong course of action, because bullies perceive it as weakness and just punch harder the next time —he has broken that arc and has likely bent it backward for at least a generation.”
Well, Professor Western may know a lot about the psychology of bullying, but he obviously never had to negotiate with crazy bullies with the national and global economies at stake. He also forgets that Barak Obama is the first African-American President of the United States, which makes a lot of people very mad. Had he acted in a non-conciliatory and authoritarian fashion, he would have been execrated. Tea-partiers would have quickly depicted him as an undemocratic, angry black man.
Western must be a happy man today. His op-ed gave him enough notoriety to put him on CNN where he enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame. He is probably eyeing a position as campaign adviser to the Democrats, as he did in 2007. Well, thank you, professor, you may go home now and ponder about what, if any, contribution your op-ed and TV appearances have made to solve the country’s problems.
To be sure, Obama has made his share of mistakes and he is not the passionate liberal some people hoped he would be. He is a centrist, which is both a virtue and a curse: a virtue because it allows him to see where the other side is coming from and to compromise, and a curse because it makes him look weak and ineffective to some.
I hate to keep raising the race card but this is a president whose American citizenship was shamelessly questioned for months on end just because he is the son of an African man. What other president in the history of any country has had to deal with something like this? And he knows that everything he says or does can be twisted and misconstrued by those who can’t accept a black man in the White House and want him to fail at any cost.
And what other president in history has had a top opposition leader tell members of his party that their single most important achievement should be to make him a one-term president, and later depended on that same person to reach crucial agreements on critical issues for the country and his administration?
Americans who are disappointed in Obama’s handling of the debt-ceiling debacle are forgetting that Presidents are not Kings. They cannot make whatever decisions they want without the approval of congress and they need the support of strong political leaders in order to succeed. President Obama doesn’t seem to be getting that. And his liberal friends don’t seem reluctant to throw him under the bus.
Watching them go on TV to criticize the President’s actions, or lack thereof, I can’t help but wonder what motivates them to throw more wood on the fire. And as I hear their negative statements I can envision every single one of those lethal sound bites being used on Republican ads during the presidential campaign.
Perhaps they’d like somebody in the Democratic Party –say, Hillary Clinton–to challenge Obama in 2012. This would be a fatal mistake and Hillary is too smart to go for it, but surely some of her old supporters will try to push the idea forward.
As Winston Churchill said, “a fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.” That perfectly describes the tea-party fanatics and their tactics. But it also applies to liberals who insist on discussing the flaws and failures of the President when they should be changing the subject and putting out a positive and constructive message to the American people who are hurting and need a message of hope.
Chapeau to those who are putting out a positive word and shame on those who continue to criticize and complain from the comfort of their irrelevant platforms.