Superstorm Sandy’s October surprise has shifted our national discussion away from the state of our economy to the weather’s terrible impact on some of our United States. But as Election Day looms and beleaguered east coasters eventually recover their electrical power, they—and the rest of the country—stand ready to reclaim a measure of political power with their votes.
If people enter the polling place with only one thought in mind, let it be this: whom do I trust more to take responsibility for the many problems and challenges we face as a nation?
A stark difference between President Obama and Governor Romney is that Romney is eager to take responsibility while Obama repeatedly pledges to take responsibility and then fakes it.
On federal relief for storm-damaged states, Obama has stepped up, as he should, with presidential leadership.
But what about his other responsibilites as a leader? Switch to the policy disasters facing Americans: the feeble economy, 23 million Americans unemployed or underemployed, the tragic Benghazi attack, broken promises to cut the debt and deficits, scandalous crony capitalism including Solyndra, the Pandora’s boxes of ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank, Fast and Furious (and the list goes on) and leadership is missing. In all of the latter instances, Obama has defined himself with actions he has willfully taken and responsibilities he has either assumed or shirked.
Like any leader—particularly a politician—Obama knows that he makes an indelible statement about his priorities and his acts of responsibility by where he chooses to be and what he says when he gets there.
Thus, on Wednesday, two days after Sandy hit the Northeast, Obama traveled to New Jersey. There he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Republican Governor Chris Christie, signaling presidential involvement in a recovery response to the hurricane. Obama’s message:: I’m on top of this. I’m a Democrat working with a Republican. This is me and the federal government acting responsibly.
But this artful blend of optics and intervention in New Jersey also begs the question of where Obama’s sense of responsibility has been in all of the previously mentioned disasters, ranging from lives shattered by the consequences of his decisions on the economy to lives lost in Libya.
As a general principle, President Obama claims, “the buck stops with me,” or “I’m ultimately responsible.” While criticizing Romney, Obama even told ABC’s Scott Thuman that, “…as president of the United States, it’s pretty clear to me that I’m responsible for folks who are working in the federal government and you know, Harry Truman said the buck stops with you.”
But does Obama truly take responsibility or fake responsibility? We’ve had four years of Obama shooting messengers (including Fox News) and blaming others (before it was Romney it was President Bush, Republicans and the Tea Party). We’ve had four years of Obama insisting that he knows best and that anywhere there have been “bumps in the road” it is because of potholes and craters made by others—never by him.
The president can’t have it both ways. With leadership responsibility comes leadership accountability.
In his inaugural address, Obama said, “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility—a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.”
What is required of us, as voters, is to hold President Obama to account regarding his record of just talking about responsibility rather than seizing it for what we believe is the common good.
In the run-up to Election Day, we’ve had two natural disasters: superstorm Sandy and Barack Obama’s buck passing about almost anything other than a hurricane.
It is time to clean up after both of them.
Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net. He is a consultant to corporate and political leaders including Steve Forbes.