President Obama gives me more and more the impression to be a man who doesn't know how to be a president and who - as a consequence - keeps making errors of judgment. A little overview:
- when the army asked for more troops in Afghanistan Obama let his adversaries pressure him to make a stupid promise: that the troops would be withdrawn again within a short term. Instead he should just have accepted that some people would not like him for sending extra troops. By doing concessions to them he restricted his freedom for future action in Afghanistan and he weakened the resolve of the US and its allies in Afghanistan.
- with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico we saw the same pattern. Obama let himself be pressured to forbid drilling in the Gulf and engage in anti-British/anti-BP demagogy. He would have done much better to just ask for a thorough review of oil drilling in the Gulf and how the government controls it. If he had specific points he could have asked his underlings to leak them so that his own hands stayed clean. He may have feared the same fate as Bush whose popularity never really recovered from hurricane Katrina. But Bush lost his credibility for a combination of disaster mismanagement and a lack of compassion for the victims. Obama could have shown his compassion by allocating some money for those people whose income was hit by the disaster - like fishermen and people working in tourism.
- the newest item is the mosque that should be built near the location of the old WTC that was destroyed in 9/11. Obama doesn't have any authority here so he shouldn't have interfered in the first place. Also he seemed unable to understand that - whatever the initial credibility of the project - it has lost that by now. You can't build a center for "dialogue" that is opposed by 70% of the American population. If you insist on doing that you just show that you aren't serious about dialogue.
A president should not involve himself in any conflict that comes up. Instead he should set a course and let others fill in the details. And when he involves himself it should be as the final judgment, not as just another opinion.
Nobody will like every decision that he makes, but that is ok. In the end we judge our leaders on their results and not on their individual decisions. I think Obama is showing here his lack of leadership experience. A good leader should know how to delegate to others.
The impression is that Obama interfered with the mosque to placate his left-wing supporters. But who cares about a mosque? As Clinton once said "it's the economy, stupid" and the economy is still going badly. There is some growth again but unemployment keeps rising and as the stimulus loses its effect the growth starts to stall too. As a matter of impression management Obama should have allowed the economy to tank in his first months in office: he could blame that on Bush. Then once the economy had bottomed out he would have been able to claim credit for the new growth. Now the main effect of his stimulus has been to delay and decrease the crisis. From an economic point of view this may have been wise but certainly not from a political point of view.
Given the bad state of the economy the main area where Obama could have made a good impression was the financial sector, that had caused the crisis. But he has handled this sector with kid gloves, raising the impression that he is not really different from Bush.