It’s a year since Barack Obama’s election and an intriguing question is what have we learned and what has he learned?
The answer is the same in both cases. Sadly, it’s still all about him even while he pretends that it’s all about us. The phenomenon of Barack Obama—the appeal that helped elect him and the charisma he still generates, although with much less heat these days—stems from his audacity, his hope and his promise of change.
Last fall, it was sold as “change we can believe in.” But let’s not kid ourselves. Even a year ago he just wasn’t that into you or me. His star quality derived not from “Yes, we can!” It came from “Yes, I can!”
Obama’s brilliance as a candidate was that he made a sufficient number of people believe that despite his lack of experience, despite the little we knew of him as an individual (some of it troubling, including his longtime associations with radical figures), he had the glow about him of a winner. It was the glow of FDR, JFK and even, some said, of Ronald Reagan. It was all about him.
But as with all unrealistically inflated expectations this one—The One—has bumped into inconvenient truths. The same depressed economy that lifted Obama’s boat is causing it to sink.
But because he is so much into himself and just not that into you, Obama persists in obsessing about a government-run health care program rather than focusing on the one form of change most Americans want now: jobs and economic development.
These times call for a leader who is more of a “hedgehog” than a “fox.” The hedgehog, described by historian and philosopher Isaiah Berlin, knows one big thing and concentrates on it. The fox knows many things and craftily plots about them.
A major reason that the air is going out of the Obama balloon is that his priorities are those of a fox and ours are those of a hedgehog. This disparity is lowering him in our regard. Obama is determined to remake one-sixth of our economy—health care—into a government-run program while we worry more about the other five-sixths of the economy. “It’s the economy, Mr. President.” And if you were more into us rather than you, you’d make jobs your number one job (instead of health care reform).
He is also dashing around, like a fox, chasing policy rabbits such as climate change. Mr. President, we can argue about global warming later. Let’s achieve economic warming first. “Green jobs” sound great. But how about some rust-colored ones in America’s Rust Belt? How about some red, white and blue jobs all across the rest of the country?
And, Mr. President, we appreciate your sensitivity to your critics. But that’s all about you. How about us? Did we mention jobs and the economy, Mr. Obama?
On that subject, with all due respect, please be humble enough to concede that while you are intelligent, the brilliance of America isn’t in its government, filled with technocrats and bureaucrats. It has been (and remains) in its people, especially those who are bold. Not the boldness of politicians like you; but the boldness of entrepreneurs and risk takers, of job creators and new business developers. Unfortunately, under your influence, the largest growth area for jobs is in government—not in the private sector. Government can serve. But it is people outside government who do the major creation and innovation in society, especially when it comes to the economy and jobs.
A year after your election, it is time for you to stop blaming your predecessor, George W. Bush, for the economy, the war in Afghanistan, public and political incivility and everything else you say you have to “mop up.” Put away the mop, Mr. President. Pick up a broom. Let’s have a clean sweep to a new model: our agenda, not yours.
If you really want us to be more into you, just get more into us.
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.