Barack Obama: How Do You Turn Hype into a To-do List?

If Hillary Clinton is elected President of the United States I will not be happy, but I know that America will endure and even find ways to thrive.

If Barack Obama is elected, I cannot say the same with much confidence. Although my indelible belief in the quality and character of Americans in general gives me great hope, I think the odds are at least 50/50 that an Obama Presidency will be a wrong turn down a long and dangerous road for our great nation.

If my pessimistic prognostication comes true, those who voted for him will be equally to blame. In his diatribes on the need for change he and his audiences chant “Yes we can.” Interesting use of the plural Senator, but might I remind you of the short attention span of the American voter. If history is our teacher, the “Yeswecans” who are so prevalent today will be raptured back to indifference the morning of January 21, 2009.

The tidal wave of support that put a spring in his step and a song on his tongue for two years will be gone. So what’s a President to do? Follow through on his campaign pledges, of course. Except that there are precious few of them. In fact, those that he’s making are suddenly under fire as well. Samantha Power, his recently resigned foreign policy advisor, mentioned that President Obama may not feel bound by his campaign promise to pull out of Iraq in 2009. Or perhaps he should put an end to NAFTA, given that he’s an outspoken critic of the agreement. However, stories abound that he may be using back channels to communicate to the Canadians that he’s more bark than bite on the topic.

The phrase he borrowed from Deval Patrick, the recently elected Governor of Massachusetts, “I am not asking you to take a chance on me. I am asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations,” would be a remarkably conservative turn of phrase if delivered by a conservative politician. Delivered by Senator Obama it is his first line of defense for a failed administration. “The people chose not to take a chance on their aspirations and to accept the status quo,” he’ll respond. He is depending on a mobilized America. Which, again, would be fine, if it were part of a consistent conservative philosophy of accountability, consequences and empowerment. But when delivered by a big government Democrat, it is a sleight of hand designed to keep you from the truth, which is that he is neither authentic nor substantive.

Senator Clinton’s complaints that he doesn’t have political experience do not, on their face, bother me. His lack of executive experience bothers me a little but what bothers me most is his not exercising authority during his campaign. On at least three occasions (his wife’s comments about never being proud of America before, why he no longer wears an American flag lapel pin and his associations with Pastor Jeremiah Wright) he has had the opportunity to speak swiftly and decisively to the matter at hand and put the issue to rest. In none of the cases did he. Rather he chose to obfuscate the issues with a barrage of verbiage. I honestly believe that he thinks he can speak himself out of any corner without ever taking decisive action. This is a troubling attribute in a Presidential candidate. There will be occasions requiring swift, aggressive, globally unpopular decisions.

I wonder if he even knows what the job entails. His response to the Hillary Clinton commercial wherein Hillary shows herself answering a ringing hot line at the White House at 3am was that it was fear-mongering. I disagree. That’s the job of the President. The commercial was an accurate portrayal of what the President does. Had he said, “I just want to know why it took her six rings to answer the most important phone in the world,” that would have been a valid comment.

Obama’s stated willingness to negotiate one on one with the leaders of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba also demonstrates that he doesn’t understand the responsibilities associated with holding the most powerful job in the world.

The job of the President of the United States involves confrontation, at home and abroad. Yet Senator Obama eschews confrontation at nearly every turn. He avoids confrontation on the campaign trail by saying that he is above running a negative campaign. He avoids confrontation by not saying publicly that his wife mis-spoke. He plans to avoid confrontation by sitting down and making-nice with leaders of rogue nations instead of standing up to them.

Senator Obama’s modus operandi is to be liked. He likes to be liked. He believes he can be liked by everyone and that once liked, he can then exert power gently. This is the truest failure of his lack of executive experience. He hasn’t yet ascertained the fallacy of his thinking and he hasn’t learned to hone his instincts for making the tough decision even when it’s unpopular.

What vision does Senator Obama have for America other than Americans be popular in the world and that he get credit for the change in our perception? He was quoted in the November 29, 2007, Time Magazine saying, “Ultimately the process [of running for President] reveals aspects of an individual’s character and judgment. If you think about past Presidents, probably those two things along with vision are the most important aspects of a presidency.” Clearly he acknowledges the importance of having a vision for America. Yet he says, “We are the change we seek.” “We” are his vision. He is calling on us to find our own way, to make our own change. Is that the message his supporters are hearing?

Let me add that this extended battle with Hillary Clinton is working to his advantage. The Clinton/Obama battles are providing a shield for Obama to hide behind. Hillary bemoans his lack of experience while lacking executive experience herself. Hillary attacks his health care plan for not covering ALL Americans and America sees only minor differences of degree. Obama’s policy postulates are thin, but he can get away with making no creative initiatives by simply responding to Clinton’s proposals. He isn’t being forced to show any of his cards.

Republicans who are watching this race already know they won’t vote for either Clinton or Obama but still watch with endless fascination how the Democratic Party may be loading the gun with which it kills itself. Likely Democratic voters are watching the process like a coming train wreck but view the candidate’s policies as nearly identical given Obama’s proclivity to hide behind his rhetoric and his opponent.

A general election showdown should force him to create an agenda upon which to run and which will likely be exposed as insubstantial. Until then, he can spend his days addressing delegate counts and Democratic Party politics, neither of which contributes to a great presidency.

What would a President Obama do on January 21, 2009? How do you translate hype into a to-do list? For a man uncomfortable making decisions, with no vision of the America he’d like to create and no policy mandates from the people, I fear we’ll see more of what we’ve already seen—a man who loves the adulation more than the work, and America will drift rudderlessly into the next decade.

Published in: on March 18, 2008 at 1:31 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Mr. Kleber:

    I think you make some remarkable assumptions. By listening to the same type of media hype you’re decrying, you have pieced together the identity of a man, one primarily based on suspicion rather than fact, psychoanalyzing him and using his popularity to label him as a guy who likes to be liked.

    Upon entering congress, Barack promised to help get rid of corruption. And he passed concrete legislation about transparency in government.

    It’s remarkable how many people have bought into the spin machines at work. Barack is a compelling speaker, so he is labeled “all talk”, and millions of people gladly accept it without actually reviewing his policy decisions and accomplishments.
    Message – Delete

    Further, I don’t think I could disagree more with the idea that it is weak-willed to engage in diplomacy with enemy nations. Self-important chest thumping and hollering gets us nowhere. Wait, scratch that, it does get us somewhere: it gets us to hatred, violence, and instability. But xenophobia has never been this consumer-friendly, right? Because in the real world, when you have a problem, communication is never the answer: we ought to ignore the other person and resign ourselves to hate.

    That’s the old mentality, that’s what we pessimistically and self-importantly call “reality,” and it’s that ridiculous mindset that Obama and his supporters want to change.
    Message – Delete

    Obama is a beloved figure, and for many people, that is due to his superficial appearance; on that point there can be no dispute. But please don’t be swept up in the equally superficial generalizations and spin. Look at his records and achievements and weigh them on their own merit. Fighting superficial support with superficial criticism will get us nowhere.

  2. A lot of this note is all talk and no substance, just the sort of superficial “diatribes” you’re railing against. I was hoping that in constructing a piece of writing on Obama, you would do some substantive research on what he has done in the past and why millions of Americans (whom you would probably scorn as apathetic, stupid, and under-educated…and therefore whose opinions are insubstantial because their hopes are so easily stirred by charismatic speeches and will never amount to substantial policy– to which I reply that America is a DEMOCRACY, a fact you can never take for granted for better or for worse–) anyway I sincerely believe he has the power to get America out of a rut.

  3. WELL SAID BRIAN AND JOHN. Sen. Obama will give UNITED in The United States of American new meaning.

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