The Piling On Begins

August 26th, 2011 by Lee Eldridge

I had written several posts last year discussing a lack of leadership from President Obama. In particular I had been critical of his handling of the BP oil spill, but truth be told, I think we’ve seen a lack of leadership on just about every issue facing our country. The President is capable of delivering a great speech. He’s championed a number of causes that send a thrill up the leg of liberals like Chris Matthews. He’s very likable. But that doesn’t make him a leader.

Now we’re starting to see Democrats discuss this as well. The far left has been critical for some time that the President hasn’t been liberal enough, though I’m not exactly sure what they expected. I think like many, including myself, they had misinterpreted what type of liberal the President would be. But that’s a discussion for another day.

Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, Mortimer Zuckerman published a strong article on the President’s lack of leadership. Zuckerman is chairman and editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report, a publication that is largely considered left of center by those of us who follow media bias. I don’t know enough about Zuckerman to tell you if he’s a moderate or a liberal, but he supported the election of President Obama, and has given thousands to Democrats over the years. His op-ed is worth the read. Here are a few key parts of his article.

Zuckerman discusses the President’s position during the recent debt ceiling debate:

Since the president is the one who represents all of America and all Americans, the buck stops with him rather than with the Congress. It is the president’s job to offer a coherent program for the twin threats of a static economy and an unsustainable explosion of our debts and deficits. But the only core issue on which he took a clear position in the recent debt-ceiling negotiations was that it would have to include new taxes on the wealthy—and he didn’t even hold to that.

He made the politically tested and calculated statement that if you raise taxes on billionaires and millionaires you could solve the problem. This is not so. Even for those who support higher taxes on the wealthy, as I do, we must remember that we have an income tax system in which fully half the “taxpayers” pay no tax at all, and in which the variety of loopholes cries out for a real reform of the tax code. Even if the government instituted a 100% tax on both corporate profits and personal incomes above $250,000 per year, it would yield enough revenue to run the government for only six months. Why? Because under Mr. Obama’s presidency, government spending has swelled to 24% of GDP from 18%.

I have made similar arguments in the past about the need for significant tax reform, not just closing a few loopholes here and there as the President has recommended. Zuckerman continues to discuss the President’s lack of leadership in developing a plan to tackle our country’s problems:

Erskine Bowles, co-chair of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission appointed by the president in 2010 to devise a plan for dealing with the fiscal crisis, put it well: “It is one that is completely predictable and from which there is no escape.” The president said he would stand by his commission, but as of today he’s remained silent on its many proposals, seemingly unable to speak honestly on the subject.

Zuckerman also discusses the disillusionment from the President’s supporters:

The president appears to consider himself immune from error and asserts the fault always lies elsewhere—be it in the opposition in Congress or the Japanese tsunami or in the failure of his audience to fully understand the wisdom and benefits of his proposals. But in politics, the failure of communication is invariably the fault of the communicator.

Many voters who supported him are no longer elated by the historic novelty of his candidacy and presidency. They hoped for a president who would be effective. Remember “Yes We Can”? Now many of his sharpest critics are his former supporters. Witness Bill Broyles, a one-time admirer who recently wrote in Newsweek that “Americans aren’t inspired by well-meaning weakness.” The president who first inspired with great speeches on red and blue America now seems to lack the ability to communicate any sense of resolve for a program, or any realization of the urgency of what might befall us. The teleprompter he almost always uses symbolizes and compounds his emotional distance from his audience.

We lack a coherent and muscular economic strategy, as Mr. Obama and his staff seem almost completely focused on his re-election. He should be spending most of his time on the nitty-gritty of the job instead of on fund raisers, bus tours and visits to diners, which essentially are in service of his political interests. Increasingly his solutions seem to boil down to Vote for Me.

Clearly the president will have to raise his game to win a second term, especially if the Republicans find a real candidate. Will voters be willing to give him another four years? Like many Americans who supported him, I long for a triple-A president to run a triple-A country.

Well written Mr. Zuckerman. You can read his entire op-ed here.

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