Thu, 23 Apr 2009 18:00:11 +0000 –
By Jon Kraushar Communications Consultant
Audacity--boldness--defines Barack Obama. As the president approaches his 100th day in office on April 29, expect his audacity to be on full display in several key ways:
The Audacity of Hope
The hope invested in Obama to remedy the economic crisis at home has granted him audacious latitude to push through budgets or proposals to spend, tax, regulate and indebt the country like never before. His agenda has been to enlarge Big Government's control of health care, energy, education and the private sector while skimping on national security.
Because of people's fixation on fixing the economy, Obama is backed, for now, by a diminishing but still significant majority of the electorate (mostly those on the extreme left to folks in the center). His cheering squad also comprises many in the mainstream media. They have already announced big plans to mark Obama's 100th day in office with saturation coverage -- a great deal of which will no doubt be laudatory.
But like so much about Obama, the audacity of hope has been subject to shape-shifting since he assumed the presidency. The hope he preaches to different audiences at different times at home in the U.S. turned into expressions of remorse and blame for America when he traveled to Europe and Latin America.In France, Obama told an audience of mostly students that, "...there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive."
The president's toughest critics accuse him ofnaivete and (borrowing a phrase used by Hillary Clinton when she slandered the brilliant General David Petraeus when he was Commander of Multi-National Forces in Iraq) a "willing suspension of disbelief" when it comes to America's true enemies and inconstant friends.
Thus we have Obama (literally) bowing to the Saudi king, smiling and handshaking with Venezuelan socialist dictator Hugo Chavez and (figuratively) scraping to the Russians, the North Koreans, the Iranians, the Palestinians, the Cubans and the Europeans. For all his apologizing, appeasing and sermonizing, Obama has not won any major cooperation or compliance from either adversaries or supposed allies. As Obama talks about disarming, sharing financial burdens, and dreams about a "green" world, other countries laugh up their sleeves.
The Audacity of Change
When it comes to change, Obama is a paradox. He has honored many of his campaign promises but they remain infected with explicit or implicit bashing of his predecessor: George W. Bush. It's as if Obama's presidential campaign never ended.
First, Robert Gibbs, Obama's press secretary, said the president wanted to look forward and not support war crimes trials for Bush administration officials who allegedly approved harsh interrogation techniques that now are being characterized as torture. But then, pressured by far-left groups like MoveOn.org, Obama reversed that course and has opened the door to possible future prosecutions by the Justice Department.
Obama alternately praises and then constrains the Central Intelligence Agency in the fight against terrorism, leading The Wall Street Journal to say in an editorial that, "A President can't placate the left and keep America safe." At a certain point, blaming Bush for everything won't cut it for Obama.
The Audacity of Responsibility
President Obama's inaugural address contained a call for "a new era of responsibility," a phrase repeated as the title of his $3.55-trillion budget for fiscal year 2010.
Obama's budget would raise taxes by $1.4-trillion over ten years and would double the national debt to over $15-trillion. His budget also provides for a $250-billion "placeholder" for additional bailouts, based on the rosy assumption that the government would be able to recover $500-billion from toxic assets it buys.
When it comes to his taxing and spending plans, President Obama attempts to paper over what is really irresponsibilitywith his own version of Orwellian (or Clintonian) "newspeak."
According to Obama taxpayer funds aren't "spent" they are "invested." A $650 billion health care "reserve fund" is a "down payment." We're not living through a "recession," it's a "recovery." An "earmark" isn't a pet pork project favored by a member of Congress if it's already been "reviewed" (i.e.: it's in the bill). And a government Web site that lacks real detail about how all the bailout money is being spent is a model of "transparency."
Audacity Has Its Limits
Obama's audacity is on probation with the American people -- who are, at bottom, both smart and pragmatic. The majority of Americans say they want to give Obama a chance to make good on his boundless self-confidence. His first 100 days remain a honeymoon.
But eventually, should his bailouts (Obama calls them "rescue plans") continue to be flameouts; should his tax hikes (Obama calls them "tax fairness") turn into job killers; should his mandates (Obama calls them "reforms") become bureaucratic nightmares; and should a terrorist attack at home (in Obamaspeak it's a "man-caused disaster") be a "government-caused disaster," we will see a different kind of audacity in 2010.
Voters will send a message to Obama in the elections that will make previous protests look like, well, tea parties.
Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net.
Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net. He is a consultant to corporate and political leaders including Steve Forbes.