One notion that comes up frequently on conservative blogs, including this one, about the president’s agenda is that it is nothing new, merely the codifying of various items which have been on various items on the Democratic wish list for the past generation or two (or three).
Just, look at health care, Obama pushed through an overhaul whose unpopularity seemed to grow in direct proportion to the attention he gave to it. And yet even after Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, largely on public opposition to said legislation, the president persisted in pushing it through Congress — even though the American people made clear they didn’t want it.
He seeks to move public opinion after the legislation has passed, not pass the legislation in response to public outcry. For the president and his Democrats, their agenda trumps the popular will — and the current needs of American society.
A real leader addresses the concerns of the people and responds to circumstances with solutions appropriate to the problem at hand. When crises emerge, he turns his attention to them, working relentlessly at meeting the needs of the day, even putting aside other items on his long-term agenda to do so. See George W. Bush and the attacks of 9/11 or Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Second World War.
“Presidents,” David Paul Kuhn writes at RealClearPolitics, “are hostage to events“:
But that’s a half-truth. Presidencies rise and fall far more by their response to great events than to the event itself.
“Presidents are ultimately judged by how they handle the unexpected,” presidential historian Richard Norton Smith wrote in an email exchange. “JFK may have blown the Bay of Pigs but more than recovered a year later in Cuba. … Just as he moved away from his cautious approach to civil rights as newspaper pictures and TV reports from Birmingham — the equivalent of today’s unstopped pipe at the bottom of the Gulf — made him realize that the presidency is, indeed, ultimately a place of moral leadership.”
Via Instapundit. Emphasis added.
But, when facing the unexpected, Obama has been slow to shift course, preferring to keep his focus on his legislative agenda rather than focus on the unexpected crisis. Kuhn also cites Princeton political historian Julian Zelizer’s observation that “bad presidents make the crisis seem greater than the presidency.” See e.g, Jimmy Carter and the hostage crisis.
If Obama were truly the leader his supporters claimed he was in the campaign, he would not be blundering so badly in response to the Oil Spill. He would be working with local leaders and providing them the assistance they need.
Kuhn and Smith get at what really ails this Administration. It has at is head someone more interested in pushing through a big government initiative that handling the unexpected crises that occur under his watch. A real leader would understand when to put his partisan agenda aside in order to promote the general welfare of the nation he leads.