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Waiting in the Wings: Obama's Leadership Style Has its Downsides

Monday, April 18, 2011 - 05:52 PM

US President Barack Obama along with House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio (2nd L), House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia (2nd R) and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R) (Getty)

President Obama plays politics a bit differently than other major political figures, but it has become more and more clear in recent months that he isn't any less of a political game player than anyone else in Washington.

His supporters want to explain away his hesitation to act decisively as him being deliberative. This just doesn't hold up when you see that the way Obama goes about things has been the same on every major issue since he's taken office. Namely that he'll wait and see, do some prodding behind the scenes, then wait and see some more... and when other people have gotten close to making a deal, he jumps in and helps push it over the line.

There are several illustrations of this - the healthcare debate and democratic uprisings in the Islamic world come to mind first. But his actions (or lack thereof) on fiscal issues at home are the most absurd example of this in my opinion.

This didn't seem to be the case for a short time last year, as Obama pushed Congress to form a commission to advise them on how we can tackle long term debt issues. They refused to do so, so President Obama put his own together, which he deserves some praise for.

The devil was in the details though. The commission's final outline of recommendations got 11 out of 18 votes, over 61 percent. This is usually plenty for a commission, but the fine print set the level it needed to reach all the way at 14 votes, nearly 78 percent. On such an important issue, this bit of purposeful sabotage is completely unacceptable. If the President wanted to hold onto the recommendations for a later date, he could have scheduled the commission to put out its conclusions later.

Luckily this power vacuum he leaves by being so unwilling to use the power of the bully pulpit is being filled with some who care too much about these issues to let them continue to slide.

On the world stage figures like France's Nicholas Sarkozy and Britain's David Cameron have taken the lead.

At home, the so called 'Gang of Six' is building support for legislation similar to what Obama's own Fiscal Commission recommended. Far from the budget champion Obama appears to want to be seen as, Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Saxby Chamblis, the two that head up the Gang of Six, are among the real heroes in the war against fiscal insanity. Heath Shuler, the most outspoken moderate Democrat these days, has been pushing for something similar to go to the floor for debate and an up or down vote as well.

Obama's tack is a near mirror opposite of George W. Bush, given his penchant for constantly throwing the full weight of the White House behind his legislative agenda. I was among those that thought President Bush went too far in that respect, but going as far as Obama has in the opposite direction has its downsides as well.

While it may seem better on the surface, it could be just as dangerous in a time when we need strong leadership to avert very real and present dangers to our economy. Should Obama and the leadership of the two major parties in the House and Senate not take serious action towards shoring up our fiscal house, each year it becomes more likely that we see our credit ranking slide, which is likely to send us into a fiscal tailspin not unlike what Ireland is dealing with now. Unlike Ireland, we aren't part of a larger body of nations with pockets deep enough to bail us out.

David Cameron made the tough choices to steer Britain clear of similar dangers. Will the Gang of Six fill the shoes Obama is unwilling to wear and do the same for us?

Solomon Kleinsmith is a nonprofit worker, serial social entrepreneur and strident centrist independent blogger from Omaha, Nebraska. His website, Rise of the Center, is the fastest growing blog targeting centrist independents and moderates. He is currently collaborating with other centrist independent and moderate bloggers on a news aggregation and social networking site, and is always looking for ways to help the independent groundswell as more and more people become disaffected with the two major parties.

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