23 January 2010

Obama Finally Gets His Experience Just as His Support Dries Up

Leadership does not just begin with vision. It begins with getting people to confront the brutal facts and to act on the implications.
- Jim Collins, Good to Great

Again, I feel like a Martian. I’m not sure whether to feel comforted by that or not.
When Bush invaded Iraq, I was aghast twice. Once that he’d do it in response to 9-11 and then that so many people – from media to everyday citizens – would so blithely cheer him on.

A year ago, when Obama was sworn in, I was, like so many Americans, so relieved that Bush was gone and happy to have a new president who seemed so intelligent, thoughtful, and carefully optimistic. The one big concern I expressed at the time was that Obama had no real experience. A year ago, I felt like a part of the majority. It was a little heady.

After peaking in the summer, Obama’s approval ratings have steadily dropped. They are now below 50%. And this is the part that I don’t get.

Obama’s one big weakness last year was a lack of experience. He now has it. And he’s done pretty well. I’ve got criticisms of the man, but he’s largely the cautiously progressive, boldly moderate candidate we elected. He’s kept his calm. He’s put money into infrastructure and education, showing his commitment to making long-term improvements in this country. And he’s shown genuine respect for other countries and won back our standing in the world community. He’s changed tactics, strategy, and even specifics about his goal on health care but has yet to sacrifice direction (moving towards more coverage for more Americans).

I’m still hopeful about this man who writes about the audacity of hope, but now I feel a little less uneasy about him. In my book, he’s proven that he can translate his potential into results. He has experience and the experience is not that bad, in spite of the bad economy and wars he’s inherited.

Bush had a great imagination. I’ll give him that. He wanted to transform a dictatorship in the Middle East into a beacon of democracy within a couple of years. Given such a thing has never happened in the history of humanity, such a goal showed great imagination. But he showed little acceptance of the world as it is.

By contrast, Obama has yet to show much imagination but he has seemed to show a real acceptance of the world as it is. He seems very realistic.

And to me, this explains why Obama’s approval ratings have steadily slipped. He hasn’t promised that anything will be easy. He has not claimed that in reality we’re well positioned. There is nothing exciting about confronting a reality that is full of issues as difficult as climate change, two wars (well, occupations really), the worst recession in a century, and health care costs that are steadily eroding salaries and competitiveness.

Yet the potential that comes from honestly addressing reality as it is, well that’s a potential for great achievement.

For me, Obama is addressing the real issues with real solutions. There is nothing easy, exciting, or quick about this. Drucker once said something to the effect of, “even the grandest strategies eventually devolve into real work.” And yet it is work that, finally, works.

I actually feel better about Obama now than I did a year ago. I guess this puts me back into the minority. But you know, after 8 years of watching Bush, I get some comfort from that.


Big Mark 243 said...

I agree with you to a point. Bush wasn't imaginative, he was a dunderhead. In an effort to keep things simple, he was content to be conned into 'finish something that his father couldn't' by going into Iraq.

That he LIED to get us involved and let the pretext for going there fall to the way side (we've not gotten any closer to Bin Laden... and he slipped through the Bush Admins. hands enough times).

Obama has to make some startling changes in order not to be the next Jimmy Carter. I think it may be too late, but the upshot is that it may be enough.

Lifehiker said...

Americans seem to want everything to be simple,cheap, effective, and not requiring any effort or sacrifice on their part. However, as you point out, that not the way things really are, and Obama can't deliver on their expectations.

Any American president will look like a failure unless the congress and both parties can get some general agreement on the big problems, inform the country, and force people to make the hard choices. Not likely...

David said...

I admire his resolve, if that's what it is, to want to bring solutions to unsolved problems. I don't like his resolve to persist bringing the wrong solutions though. I watched Alexrod this morning and some would say "they don't get it." Not true. They do get it but aren't willing to accept it. That will be their downfall. It's not Bush's government to run now and the republicans aren't in power. It's time to stop blaming and start doing and by that I mean address the issues important to most Americans and not in the manner or process this congress is using up until now. Pretty simple to a poly sci guy. Listen! Hear the people! Martha couldn't have lost in MA if anyone had been listening.

Big Al said...

My perception is Dems were so giddy at having both a Dem president *AND* majority control of Congress a year ago they forgot that having the majority wasn't going to automatically translate into total blind acceptance. Everyone ultimately serves someone else. Nobody is autonomous. I think Obama gets this. Unfortunately, his fellow Dems sitting in Congress don't, and it's made his job as POTUS almost impossible as Congressional Dems forgot they needed to embrace and support Obama as POTUS instead of trying to control him like their Puppet in the White House. And Obama's lack of experience in all things political hurt him as he didn't see the "end around run" coming from his own party leaders in Congress.

Tim Coulter said...


Talk about an alternate reality! Obama has literally been the largest train wreck in recorded history.

Ron, what achievements are you applauding?? The tripling of the deficit? Paying off political cronies with our tax dollars? The 10+ percent unemployment?? Closing Gitmo? Finding OBL? The only successes that I can identify are his failures. For example, he wasn't able to buy enough special interest groups, and Democrat Senators to get passage of his Health Care abomination. He failed to get his job killing, Cap and Trade legislation through, and with the news coming out that all of the models used to support Man-made global warming, were the result of doctored data, the American People can breath a collective sigh of relief.

His foreign Policy is shambles. Both our erstwhile friends and enemies now hate us, and openly mock us. His open hand of friendship held out to Iran, NK Venezuela etc hasn't resulted in the smallest diplomatic victory.

Supporting Obama's policies has resulted in the election of a Republican in Mass. Continue to support his efforts Ron, but don't act confused when the Democrats are thrown out of office in November.

Increasing the size of government and the tax burden on the common man is not going to help our economy. Our government is much more of a daily problem to us as individuals than any bank, or insurance company.

Democrats need to get off his ship. Even if you support him and his policies, he is a lost cause. The ending has been written, the only question is how much damage is he going to do to his own party before he slips into oblivion?

This hurts to say, but I told you so.

Tim Coulter;-)

Big Al said...


Your wife doesn't happen to have the first name of Ann, does she? Sorry, I just couldn't resist that one. ;-)

Anyways . . . I ask this question in all seriousness: What during GW Bush's 2 terms in office did he accomplish that was positive?

Bush came into office with an advantage few presidents have enjoyed -- a $230 billion surplus. But due to a $1.35 trillion tax cut in 2001, a $1.5 trillion tax cut in 2003, and a massive defense buildup through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Bush quickly blew through that surplus. After the financial crisis in the fall of 2008 and the ensuing bailouts while Bush was still in office, the budget deficit ballooned to over $1 trillion because his supply-side tax policies slashed revenues while failing to deliver strong economic performance.

Besides the incredible deficit Bush created, he also started two conflicts (he called them wars): one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. Bush did not establish success measures or even how to end these conflicts. He started them and then walked away when his 2nd term was up.

I'll grant that Obama hasn't necessarily won the checkered flag with what he's done in his first year, but at least he kept the race car on course instead of running it off the track into spectacular crashes like his immediate predecessor.