Since taking office, President Barack Obama has come under fire for ducking during some of the most serious times in his tenure. From his late in the game responses to the crisis in Libya to the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day bomber, to his hands off approach on the health care reform bill to the federal budget Obama has been missing in action or worse. At times he has simply outsourced some of the most sensitive issues of his presidency, matters that belong in the Oval Office, to his allies on the Hill or in his administration.
Just yesterday, Republicans used the passage of a three-week spending bill in the House to ramp up pressure on Democrats and the president, saying he has “yet to truly weigh in” on the budget.
Meanwhile, he and his Party refused to pass a budget last year. That's why Congress is forced to keep the government funded in temporary fits and starts. He also took a powder when it came to tackling out of control entitlements and instead let Republicans go first.
To make matters worse, the president was seen golfing this weekend – the second one in a row – in the middle of the crisis in the Middle East, and as Japan tried to pick up the pieces from a giant earthquake and damaging tsunami. Instead of broadcasting his weekly radio address on any of the stern and sobering problems facing our nation and the globe, the president picked equal pay as the subject of his speech.
Then, amidst the criticism that he was disengaged, he decided to invite ESPN to the White House so he could publicly select his March Madness brackets, not exactly the chart topper of presidential priorities.
So is President Obama tone deaf, or is it that he really doesn’t care?
It’s more likely that he simply doesn’t know what to do. The president is simply out of his league, and it’s causing his administration to send mixed messages on everything from Egypt to Israel to energy policy.
This is most evident in his handling of the Libyan crisis, where he has called for Gaddafi to step down, but has not endorsed a no-fly zone or clearly explained the US’s position. During a press conference last week, Obama said he was “deeply concerned” that Gaddafi was gaining ground. Intelligence officer James Clapper also acknowledged that he believed Gaddafi ultimately might prevail. In the meantime, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) sent forces into Bahrain on Monday at the invitation of the government.
So what is the US going to do? The world is waiting for President Obama.
Sadly, he only speaks up when it affects his base or his re-election campaign, like in the mosque controversy at Ground Zero or when unions’ collective bargaining rights were on the chopping block in Wisconsin.
What we are witnessing is a profound indication of leadership paralysis. Obama does not know what to say on all fronts. He has no roadmap on fiscal issues, a national energy plan and gas prices, or the Middle East. He is not guided by US interests or any discernable strategy. His only goal is moral preening and making amorphous statements that make him sound like the most righteous man in the room.
The public is starting to notice as our country’s problems seem to become more evident. According to Gallup, his approval rating hit its lowest level since mid December – 46%.
If he has any hope of re-election, or if more importantly, he hopes to solve our challenges, the President needs to forget his basketball picks and focus on the real March madness happening at home and abroad. Sadly, though, leadership is not a trait found in the faculty lounge.