Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Deliberate or Desperate?

After three days, President Barack Obama issued a statement about the recent Northwest Airlines terrorist situation. Granted, he was on vacation (or as much of a vacation as a sitting US President can have), and members of his Administration were making statements in his stead.

Yet, I can't quite give him slack for waiting three days to issue an initial statement about it. No matter how you try to spin it, it was a terrorist attack on a flight going into Detroit, which isn't exactly devoid of Muslims. With all of the red flags that went up (or should have) with the terrorist, it shouldn't have been tough to figure out a position to take on it. It wasn't even as nuanced or as complicated at the Henry Lewis Gates situation, and Obama made a snap judgment on that.

Then again, that may be part of the problem. It's entirely possible that the President is suffering from the political equivalent of performance anxiety. Obama is seen as someone who is very intelligent, and his resume to date suggests that he is. However, it's entirely possible to come to a smart, yet quick, decision on issues that are as clear as the Northwest Airlines situation. And even if the situation is a bit more complicated, it doesn't take a genius to say, "Let me look into that, and I'll issue a statement as soon as I have the facts."

Instead, Obama delays on a lot of relatively simple issues. His supporters say that it's proof of Obama's deliberate nature, but I'm not so sure. (Funny, but the same people who call Obama "deliberate" for taking three days to make a statement are the same ones who went nuts over George W. Bush spending 5-6 minutes in a classroom on 9/11 after hearing of a plane hitting the World Trade Center. Go figure.) Instead, I think Obama's delays are a sign that he's desperately looking for a way out.

When you're in over your head, your first instinct is to try to slow things down to get a clear view of the situation and formulate a strategy. In some cases, it's a smart strategy because it gives you time to think. In other cases, it's a sign of weakness because it makes you look indecisive, especially if the issue at hand seems to be pretty cut and dried. When it becomes habit, it will erode people's faith in your ability to lead.

And in Obama's case, the erosion of faith is evident. His approval ratings have declined since January 2009, especially among independents, Democrats, and now even Leftists. Congressional leaders from his own party lament Obama's lack of leadership on the health care issue. Even on the world stage that went ga-ga over Obama last year, he's become somewhat of a joke. When you have world leaders scratching their heads over a delay in responding to a major event (as world leaders did following the Ft. Hood shooting), you can't just chalk it up to just right wing cranks criticizing the President.

I've said for a while now that I don't think Obama's ever really been challenged at anything, which can give one the impression that he or she is better than he/she actually is. The more Obama delays on the small issues that he should have mastery of in a short time, the more it looks like he's stalling for time out of desperation, not out of deliberation.

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