|"Commander in Cute" - This is Getting Scary|
Lately, Barack Obama has been acting more like the president of the PTA than the president of the United States. Instead of leader of the free world he’s been in Daddy in Chief mode, frenetically hopping from one school to the next to push for public/private partnership in his “Race to the Top” initiative. Instead of leading the battle of the budget, he’s talking about dealing with playground bullies. Instead of condemning the Republican assault on unions and the McCarthyesque hearings against Muslims, he's sent out an email called “Commander in Cute.” The official White House photo Thursday was of Barack hoisting an adorable four-month-old in the air. It was a parody of a campaign photo. This guy has never stopped running. On average, he spent every other day on Air Force One last year, crisscrossing the country for town halls and backyard schmoozes.
And we thought George Bush was not up for the job with all his brush-clearing jaunts to the Crawford ranch. Where the hell is Obama? This week, he’s played a game of football in the Oval Office with the Australian prime minister. Today he’s hosting a White House Conference on Bullying with Michelle. Don’t get me wrong, I hate bullying. One of my children was a bullying victim 15 years ago, when it was still considered just a normal part of growing up, and my complaints were not taken seriously by school administrators. Now that cyberbullying has started causing kids to actually kill themselves, we are finally addressing it on a national level. But is it necessary for the President to devote what seems like an entire day to it?
|He Likes to be the Only Adult in the Room|
I am beginning to think of the President as a figurehead or a public relations front guy. He is kind of like Prince William or Prince Charles, appearing at one charity event, one factory, one school, one photo-op after the other. He is a Royal who poses, but does not truly govern. He does not lead. His own Party is beginning to complain about his total failure to deal what appears to be an imminent government shutdown.
“President Obama is the only person in the country with the clout to reframe the debate on public sector unions in a more sensible manner, and he seems to have wrapped himself in a radio silence,” writes Sasha Abramsky today in Salon.com. “….he’s not only the president, he’s also a first rate orator with an almost preternatural ability to get people to see things his way when he really wants them to.”
When he wants them to…. There’s the rub. I don’t think Obama really wants people to see anything any particular way, unless it has to do with him or the corporations which he serves. Remember his groundbreaking speech on race during the 2008 campaign, after the Rev. Jeremiah Wright kerfuffle? That wasn’t really about his concern over racial inequality. That was Barack, soaring rhapsodic, to save his own candidacy. We have not heard one thing about race from his lips since he became president. Not one word about poverty, even though a quarter of all children are officially poor. Not one word about gun control since the Tucson Massacre two months ago. Not one word about the illegal vote in Wisconsin destroying collective bargaining. Not one word since Feb. 17 when he made a non-committal remark that Governor Walker appeared to be assaulting the unions. I rejoiced when I heard that the Organizing for America wing of the Democratic National Committee had gotten involved in the Madison protests. I despaired when I heard that Obama caved when House Speaker Boehner demanded that he back off, and he obliged by angrily ordering his renegade organizers away from the scene.
So, when Abramsky writes: “Mr. President – Use the Damn Bully Pulpit!” I can only reply that Obama will never do any such thing. Theodore Roosevelt coined that phrase when he was president, and he was referring to the use of the White House as a platform from which to advocate policies and agendas. A century ago, “bully” had a different meaning than it does today. Far from being a perjorative term for an abusive person, it used to mean “great” or “superb.”
|The Original Bull Moose|
Obama fits neither definition of the word. He is not an in-your-face bully in the vein of Teddy, or Chris Christie, or LBJ. Nor is he superb. He's an empty suit in front of twin teleprompters, uttering so much canned pablum that even infants in photo-ops and his staunchest supporters are beginning to tire of it.