Step up or step down

Criticism of Obama approaches equal strength from both right and left

Even, an increasingly left-wing political news site, has blasted Mr. Obama for being so out-to-lunch during the pivotal “super committee” deficit-reduction talks that ultimately failed in a fireball of intransigence.


In an article titled “Obama’s rules of disengagement,” Politico opined:

“President Barack Obama prides himself on being a clutch player, but he sat happily on the end of the bench as the clock ran out on the supercommittee. Then he took his shot after the buzzer. ...

“Critics from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Democratic budget expert Alice Rivlin chided Obama for sitting out the talks, and a stock market expected to shrug off the committee’s failure plummeted on hearing the latest leading indicator of Beltway dysfunction.”

Republicans predictably lambasted Mr. Obama, including presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who noted “the president’s utter abandonment of leadership on our debt crisis,” and Michele Bachmann, who compared the president to the disappearing children’s book character “Where’s Waldo?” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., bluntly said “The commander in chief is absent from battle,”

In a more erudite summation, conservative writer Michael Gerson said in The Washington Post, “Budget deals get done because presidents prod, plead, cajole, demand and threaten. A few phone calls and tepid public statements do not count. It is the executive, not the legislature, that gives the budget process energy and direction.”

They’re right. This president abdicated. He went on a campaign swing, then an Asian trip while the deficit battle raged on.

But criticism of his lack of leadership has blown in just as forcefully from the left of late, with left-wing commentator Howard Fineman intoning, “There’s no leadership anywhere in this city” – including in the White House. Far-left MSNBC bomb-thrower Chris Matthews – who once talked of getting a tingle up his leg at listening to Obama – also seems to have turned on the president.

“There’s nothing to root for,” Matthews complained in a recent interview. “What are we trying to do in this administration? Why does he want a second term, would he tell us? What’s he going to do in his second term, more of this? Is this it? Is this as good as it gets? Where are we going? Are we going to do something his second term? He’s yet to tell us. ... He should be sitting late at night now with senators and members of Congress and governors working together on how they’re going to win this political fight that’s coming” in 2012. I don’t have a sense that he’s ever had a meeting. I hear stories that you would not believe. Not a single phone call since the last election. He never calls — that’s the message. Members of Congress, I keep asking, ‘When did you hear from him last?’”

It’s also of note that Mr. Obama has been AWOL during other leadership opportunities. He never went to bat, for instance, for the recommendations of his own Simpson-Bowles debt reduction commission. And after praising Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for making “a serious proposal” on deficit reduction, he dismissed it out of hand. The president has also given the Democratic Senate a complete pass on its failure to even propose a budget for two years running now.

Those of us who paid attention before the 2008 election were troubled by this man’s record of voting “present” so often in the Illinois state Senate – some 130 times. Now he’s “governing present.”

“President Obama faced a tough political decision this week on the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada,” writes The (Washington) Examiner. “He could order the State Department to approve it, thus alienating his environmental activist supporters, or he could kill the pipeline, thus angering his union allies.

“Obama chose to do what he had done 130 times while he was in the Illinois state Senate. He voted present.” (He ordered a second, unnecessary environmental study to delay a decision beyond the next election.)

Mr. Obama has also blocked both job and energy growth by sitting tight on the domestic energy industry.

To their undying credit and credibility, two Democratic pollsters, Doug Schoen and Pat Caddell, wrote in The Wall Street Journal recently that Mr. Obama should forgo a second campaign and step aside for Hillary Clinton in 2012. His anticipated negative campaigning will only further divide the country and mar his second term, they say.

“By going down the re-election road and into partisan mode, the president has effectively guaranteed that the remainder of his term will be marred by the resentment and division that have eroded our national identity, common purpose, and most of all, our economic strength.”

Paradoxically, this president, while missing in action when it comes to leadership, has quietly led the most power-grabbing executive branch in memory. More on that later.

For now, it’s clear, from what he’s hearing from both the right and the left, that he either needs to step up or step down.



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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon