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Barack Obama is cerebral, cool and detached … from his own agenda

The past week has treated us to an onslaught of “Barack Obama: WHAT WENT WRONG?” stories and columns. This seems premature to me — the big items of his presidency are still in flux — but the combination of Scott Brown’s election, Obama’s falling poll numbers and his first anniversary in office make it an irresistable narrative.

Picking out three big items from the first year of his presidency, it’s easy to see a troubling pattern:

• THE STIMULUS: Barack Obama announced the broad parameters of the stimulus package … then let Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi hash it out, making concessions to Republicans on taxes and the size of the bill in exchange for, well, almost nothing.

• THE HEALTH CARE BILL: Barack Obama announced the broad parameters of the bill, but made it clear that he wouldn’t absolutely go to bat for certain parts — like a public option — that he supposedly supported. He let Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi hash it out and drag it out until the sheer amount of time had exhausted the public’s patience.

• CLOSING GITMO: Barack Obama announced he’d close Gitmo in a year — then broke the promise when he ran into opposition fro Congress, even getting rid of the official whose job it was to get Gitmo closed.

The problem is not that President Obama seems cerebral, cool and detached. It’s that he seems cerebral, cool and detached … from his own agenda. We’ve seen him give speeches, on occasion, but we haven’t seen him roll up his sleeves and fight for his own administration’s efforts. Perhaps this is all going on behind the scenes, but we as a public need to see some more of it.

With rare exception, it seems he’s not willing to work with Congress so much as he’s ready to defer to Congress. And there’s no item that’s not negotiable, it seems. Maybe this is pragmatic. But a year into his presidency, it’s more difficult than it has ever been to say what line in the sand Barack Obama won’t cross, what he definitively stands for. He’s one-quarter of the way into the only four years he’s guaranteed to hold the White House; it’s time to stop being a blank slate upon whom the voters can project their dreams and time to deliberately make a few people angry.

  1. El Borak Says: Jan 25 3:11 PM

    …which begs the question, if he is not willing to fight for an agenda, in what sense does he even have one?

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