Sunday, September 05, 2010

If Only . . .

This conversation between Rick Perlstein and Mark Schmitt, offered as an assessment of the first year of the Obama Presidency, limns the outline of what has emerged as the left-wing critique of Obama's failure as leader of the Democratic Party.
[W]hat I worry "being like Barack" truly means is that the knockout never comes. That the patience and the building of trust is, in fact, the end in itself. "Our Barack doesn't do mean," means, "Our Barack doesn't make the strategic choice to defeat a reactionary adversary even when that opportunity manifestly presents itself to him." This is Leadership 101, and, I fear, Obama is flunking.

The discussion seems to be hinting toward what has become the idea that Obama's "patience", his refusal to engage in soundbite politics (to "win the morning, win the afternoon" in Politico terms), and to believe that given enough time, the Republicans will string themselves, collectively, with the very long rope handed them by being patient, reticent, and thoughtful.

During the 2008 Campaign, I saw this quality and called it (before it got picked up by other larger bloggers with more readers), pace Mohammed Ali, "rope-a-dope". Perhaps, Obama believes this same strategy will work this time around. Perhaps he just doesn't care all that much whether or not the Democrats maintain control of Congress. After all, Bill Clinton was far more productive and popular as President when he had the Republican majority as foil.

Whatever may or may not be going on behind the scenes, many of us who supported Pres. Obama two years ago are wondering where the dynamic leader who offered us a vision of ourselves - and by "ourselves" I mean America - as better than we had been; as more courageous; as willing to sacrifice and work together to fix the problems we faced - has gone. The Democrats in Congress, for all their problems and limitations, would be a far better partner than a Congress led by the lachrymose John Boehner and the puffy Mitch McConnell. Unless Obama is far less intelligent than we had all thought - and he has yet to give any indication that he is - I, for one, want to say to him, "Mr. President, you seriously need to get your head out of your ass."

Even if Obama comes out this fall in full rhetorical swing and saves the bacon of the Congressional wing of the Democratic Party, the long list of "if only . . ." will still be hanging there, needing to be addressed. It isn't enough for the President to pull out all the stops, a President ex machina. We - the whole damn country - have been in dire need of his leadership, and he has, as Perlstein says quite bluntly, failed its most basic test.

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