Tuesday, June 26, 2012

An Eye on History, Not on the Job !

I just found out last week that on the evening of Tuesday, 30 June, 2009 (just five months into his administration) Barack Obama invited a small group of presidential historians to dine with him in the family quarters of the White House. His chief of satff, Rahm Emanuel, personally delivered a word of caution: "The meeting was to remain private and off the record." As a result, the media missed the chance to report on an important event, for the evening with these historians provided a remarkable sneak preview of why the Obama presidency would shortly go off the rails.

With Obama in full campaign mode, that event, as well as two more unreported White House dinners with the historians, is worth examining. Together, they shed light on the reason this president is likely to find it much harder than he expects to connect with the public (not including the leftist assholes in Hollywood) and win re-election to the White House.

At the time of the first dinner, the new president was still enjoying a honeymoon period with the American people. Brimming with self-confidence, Mr. Obama confided to David Axelrod, his chief strategist: "The weird thing is I know I can do this job. I think it's going to easier for me than the campaign. Much easier." That adjustment from campaigner to chief executive would prove harder...much harder...than anticipated and still had not dawned on him when he sat down to dine with the historians. They were Doris Goodwin, Michael Beschloss, Robert Caro, Robert Dallek, Douglas Brinkley, H.W. Brands, David Kennedy, Kenneth Mack and Gery Wills.

Judging from Obama's questions, one subject was uppermost in his mnd: how could he become a "transformational" president, like Ronald Reagan, and bend the history of America's domestic and foreign policy? When one of historians brought up difficulties most other presidents had implementing such an ambitious agenda, he grew testy. He impied that he was different because he could prevail by the force of his own personality.

He could solve the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, put millions of people back to work, redistribute wealth, withdraw from Irag and reconcile the United States to a less dominant role in the world. It was, by any measure, a breathtaking display of grandiosity by a man whose entire political curriculum vitae consisted of 7 undistinguished years in the Illinios senate and 2 mostly absent years in the U.S. Senate. In those evenings, he revealed the characteristics --arrogance, conceit, egotism, vanity, hubris and above all, rank amateurism --that would mark his presidency and doom it to frustration and failure.

The senior people in his administration proved to be just as inexperienced and inept as him when it came to the business of running the government. Members of his Inner Circle had proven their mettle in political campaigning, but they had no serious dealings with public-policy issues. If they could be said to have any policy exposure at all it was their ideological enthusiasms for the Left.

In the wake of the shellacking the Democrats took in the midterm elections in 2010, Obama held a second dinner which was devoted to the question of how he could "reconnect with the public." A third dinner took place in July, 2011, shortly after the United States government lost its triple-A credit rating for the first time in history, and revolved around "the challenge of re-election."

By this time the historians, and Obama's supporters for that matter, were shocked by the sense of disconnect between the sharply focused presidential candidate of 2008 and the dazed and confused president of the past 3 years. One historian leaked the comment that he found it hard to understand why he couldn"t translate his political savvy into effective governance. "I think I know the answer now," he volunteered, "Since the beginning, Obama hasn't been able to capture the public's imagination and inspire people to follow him. Vision isn't enough in a president."

The Way I See It....great presidents not only have to enunciate their vision; they must lead by example and inspiration. Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan both had the ability to make each American feel that they cared deeply and personally about them. The historian added, "That quality is lacking in Obama. People don't feel he doesn't connect with them and their needs. He doesn't have the answers. The irony is that he was supposed to be such a brilliant orator, when if fact he's turned out to be a failure as a communicator."

If the verdict of this historian is correct and Barack Obama's fundamental failure is lack of connection with the people, he is in far more serious trouble than most people realize as he seeks a second term.
More than that, I feel that Obama will not have the place in history he so eagerly covets. Instead of ranking with FDR, Reagan, Lincoln and the other giants, it seems more likely that he will be a case-study in presidential failure like Jimmy Carter. Read the book "The Amateur" by Edward Klein (former chief of the New York Times Magazine) for an even better insight into Barack Obama.

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