During the fall campaign and into the first months of Barack Obama’s Administration we heard much about this Democrat’s “political genius.” And while I credit him with a powerful presence and a way with words (especially when speaking those appearing on a teleprompter), after watching his first eight months in office, I don’t see much evidence of that genius.
In the campaign, he had precisely the right slogan for the time, “change.” During the financial crisis, he demonstrated the right demeanor for the job at hand, calmness (especially in contrast to the erratic behavior of his rival for the White House).
But, as President, few of his moves seem particularly skillful. He had outsourced the drafting of his Administration’s policy initiatives to Congress. And when they present their packages to them, he often just puts his stamp of approval on them, even if he had little say in their drafting. He may increasingly come to be seen as a creature of Congress. And those folks aren’t particularly popular.
I just wonder why he, like his predecessor, constantly caves into the legislative branch, not asserting his executive authority, particularly when he was polling (in his first few weeks in office) in the stratosphere. Can you imagine how he would have flummoxed Republicans, if when Democrats presented him with the $787 billion “stimulus,” he had said that he understood Republican concerns about the cost and thought they should send him a new bill, including only expenditures for the current fiscal year and promised to revisit the other provisions of the bill should they become necessary. (And if they sent back the same bill or one with only slight modifications, well, he’d veto it.)
He might not have secured all the handouts to favored interest groups, but he would have defined himself as a powerful force in Washington and appeared to be the man he claimed to be in his campaign. And might even have a few Republicans praising him for standing up to a spendthrift Congress, while winning media accolades for listening to Republicans.
And showing strength by offering to veto a big spending bill.