The above quote understates the case, as is normal practice with the overly cautious major media. The quote is part of a straight news story which strays, more than a little, into the realm of commentary by the reporter, so it is likely that the words were carefully measured to get past the editor. Still, it captures some essential truths about this presidency.
I would argue, first, however with the use of the phrase “liberal base”. This is falling prey to the left/right argument that dominates radio and part of cable television. Please, not everything in the world is defined by the sad cry of “liberals versus conservatives”. It is true that the more liberal supporters of Obama are the loudest in expressing discomfort and even scorn for his style, but it is all of America, short of the jeering far right, which senses Obama’s weaknesses and goes through some distress, depending on the issue of the moment. It is not, by a long shot, a matter of concern only for the “liberal base”. The use of that term, in addition, places the problem within the so called “conventional wisdom” of Washington, DC, otherwise known as group think among reporters, editors and the people they go out for drinks with.
Further, it is not just that Obama allows room for compromise, it is that he seems to be seeking compromise from the start, before any negotiations have begun. Instead of taking a tough stand and making the world know he plans to stick with it, often within a day or two of announcing something, Obama and the Obamettes are pulling back, undercutting their own arguments and saying, “Well, maybe...” Remember the public option on health care reform? Who killed that? Obama, almost at the start of the whole mess. They didn’t learn, or ignored, the valuable lesson in presidential leadership from that disaster and they continue to mealy mouth their way along.
Now, on the word “passivity”. Oh, dear. This is a important word and a big subject. To the outside observer, it seems at times that Obama just doesn’t care. He allows his opponents to push and push and push and then winds up giving in. This passivity seems to come both from a personal style of avoiding confrontation and poor decisions made by Obama and his aides. The most notable one was to stay out of the health care debate while the Congress “worked out the details”. That decision nearly sank his presidency and contributed greatly to the Democrat’s losses in 2010.
Where is the fight in this guy? Wasn’t the pledge to close Gitmo one of the guiding principles of his campaign for office? It was at once a real problem and a giant symbol of what was wrong with the government led by G.W. Bush. To millions around the world, Gitmo means torture and the denial of basic human rights. Yet, now Obama is going to have to run for reelection having not closed it and having not fulfilled one of his most adamant pledges.
I have some analysis of why Obama and his team have failed on this and other major issues, but I will save the details for another day. In the main, they seem to have failed, or been unable to, choose a few critical issues on which they want to take a stand. Instead, they allow the presidency, with its vast onrush of issues and complications, plus the loudest of the loud Republicans on Capitol Hill, to overwhelm them and set the course. This is a formula for repeated humiliation. The Republicans will be happy to serve that up, night and day, from here to election day, 2012.
Doug Terry, 4.24.11