Globalist Analysis

Obama's Lost Opportunity

Why isn’t President Obama taking more tough stances on key issues?

Takeaways


  • Obama's greatest failure so far has been his abdication of leadership. He has failed to provide what Reagan did so well, namely give his supporters ideological cover.
  • A wishy-washy stimulus, wishy-washy health care reform, wishy-washy carbon plan and wishy-washy Gitmo reversal won't solve America's problems.
  • It seems only a matter of time before the President is forced onto defense and American politics reverts to stasis and name-calling as the mid-term elections grow closer.
  • The promise of change flowing from the Presidential election will be subsumed by a running series of tactical skirmishes.

It has been only six short months and already the wolves are howling at the White House doors.

President Obama’s sweeping agenda for change comes under attack every day from both the right, which one might expect, and the left, which one did not expect quite so soon.

He currently runs the risk of losing not only the initiative, but also the moral high ground. It seems only a matter of time before the President is forced onto defense and American politics reverts to stasis and name-calling as the mid-term elections grow closer and political opponents adopt run-out-the-clock strategies.

What is Obama doing wrong? Well, nothing. And a lot!

He is trying his best to change things for the better on many different fronts. And in fairness, he’s making progress on many of those fronts. But his prime agenda seems to be that he is trying to change the law of the land through a renaissance — or restoration — of legislative centricity in American governance.

Stimulus, health care, carbon emissions and Gitmo have all been dumped in the lap of the legislative branch to figure out. With all due respect to the constitutional issues that underpin this approach, it is a dicey proposition.

The U.S. legislature is structurally unable to effect change without compromise — and compromise will fail to effect change, at least change that is real.

That leaves America’s stakeholders out in the cold. A wishy-washy stimulus, wishy-washy health care reform, wishy-washy carbon plan and wishy-washy Gitmo reversal may allow legislators to go back home and explain their way to re-election, but they won’t solve America’s problems.

This approach will merely fuss around the edges and allow political adversaries to take random potshots that sound good on cable, but do little to take the United States on a course to a new and hopeful future.

As a result, the promise of change flowing from the Presidential election will be subsumed by a running series of tactical skirmishes — inconclusive hand-to-hand combat that saps all sides through attrition.

Obama’s greatest failure so far has been his abdication of leadership. He has failed to provide what Reagan did so well, namely give his supporters ideological cover. Reagan was the last President to speak in universal truths, to propagate pervasive sentiments that struck an elemental chord in the American political psyche.

With Reagan, folks could simply nod their heads and say, "Yeah, that's about right." Not so with Obama, who seems to seek solace in the details, inadvertently substituting confusion for certainty.

Gitmo reform, for example, was stopped in its tracks because of an exotic fear that terrorist prisoners incarcerated in maximum security federal prisons might escape and reap havoc upon the American countryside! To allow this myth to flourish constitutes an egregious failure of American leadership.

Similarly, the carbon plan passed by the U.S. House is on the rocks based on an idiot-proof slogan — cap and tax. Forget that people haven't been told that the tax part of this equation is likely to be less than $10 per month for the average taxpayer.

The real problem is that people have not been presented with a comprehensive vision for energy reform that will allow the United States to manage its energy needs into the 21st century, while providing global leadership on the key environmental issue of our time — or any time.

Financial reform has suffered a similar fate. The financial system failed, was bailed out at enormous cost to both taxpayers and investors, and now is being allowed to revert to past corrupt practice.

The Obama Administration has barely tinkered at the edges of true reform, initiating only piecemeal change, when bold vision is required. How will the financial system support and sustain growth that is both local and global, while providing safeguards to protect taxpayers and investors alike? We haven't been given the answer.

And now there is health care reform. Watching this debate is like watching a train wreck unfold in slow motion.

No, America does not have the best health care system in the world! At least from the vantage point of efficiency, it is an abomination, one that leaves millions behind, uses loopholes to get out of paying for certain illnesses, rations care for all but those with the most gold-plated policies, misdiagnoses and overprescribes.

It fails to deliver a cure as often as it provides one — and, statistically, it barely stacks up as equal against the systems of other major industrialized economies. President Obama is not getting these points across effectively.

When Ronald Reagan faced a nation on the rocks in 1980, he issued clarion calls for reform. Who can forget when he said, “Government is not the solution to our problems, it is the problem.”

No such inspiration or ideology has so far been forthcoming from this White House.

Sure, the Obama Administration is trying to do the right things and many Americans feel more secure and confident with Barack Obama in the Oval Office. But the opportunity for change is being squandered, smashing onto the shoals of small-time Washington politics.

Barack Obama needs to understand that, yes, being able to speak in complete sentences is a big step forward for America's President, but it is only a big step in comparison to those who inhabited power before him.

In a recent speech, President Obama warned young black men to stop admiring their own jump shots. Maybe the President should heed his own advice, stop basking in the glow of his great electoral victory and get to work.

Because in the land of Joe the Plumber, getting folks to come to grips with reality involves a lot of hard work.

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About Richard Phillips

Richard Phillips is a New York-based international analyst with extensive financial sector experience. [United States]

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