Obama is more and more confirming my impression that his form of leadership consists of waiting for a parade to form and then jumping to the head of it and serving as its leader. In 2008 he saw the clamor for “change in Washington” and capably led that parade. He is an excellent parade leader, but he does not excel at leadership when there is no existing parade for him to lead.
He got a stimulus bill passed that was the road most easily traveled, leaving the content mostly to Congress and negotiating the stimulus portion into oblivion. The bill wound up being smaller than promised, 40% non-simulative tax cuts, 40% long term social policy, and only 20% actual, current job stimulus. The public didn’t tell him what they wanted in the stimulus, only that they wanted one, and so his leadership consisted only of demanding the bill itself and nothing in terms of the bill’s content.
There was a clamor for “health care reform,” so he kicked that ball into the air and then stood aside to see what would develop. What developed was not real reform of the health care system itself, but the far easier demagoguery of the health insurance industry, so he jumped to the head of that parade. He demonized the health care industry with the best of them, gave lip service to everything else and got health insurance reform passed instead of meaningful reform of the health care delivery system.
He listened then to see what was next on the agenda and it turned out the clamor was more for financial reform than for the energy bill that he had been promising to pass, so he jumped to the head of the “let’s demonize Wall Street” parade, and let the energy bill get moved off of the stove.
In an effort to revive energy he started by giving Republicans a “drill baby drill” policy that promptly blew up in his face when Deepwater Horizon sank. His handling of that has been totally reactive to media pressure. He hears that he has not been in charge, so he has the Coast Guard start issuing press releases. He hears that he has not visited the Gulf so he makes a trip. He hears that the trip was too short so he makes a two-day trip. He hears that he has not shown enough anger so he talks about finding out whose ass to kick. He hears that he has not addressed the nation so he schedules an address to the nation from the Oval Office.
When he was elected to office he promised to close Guantanamo within a year. That he has not done so is a fault that lies with Congress rather than him, but where is his demand to Congress that they work with him on closing that blot on our national escutcheon? There is no national clamor to close that place and so he has no motive to lead on that issue.
There is no “close Guantanamo” parade for him to get in front of.