Monday, August 23, 2010

Obama: the unpresidential president

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more troops in Afghanistan Obama let his adversaries pressure him to make a stupid promise: that the troops would be withdrawn again within a short term.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.


Stories said...

Although I agree with you partly on the two first points, I think you completely fail when it comes to the "mosque". I write mosque in brackets since calling the center a mosque seems to be a mistake and the place is being called a mosque only by those opposing it, and many of those being hardcore islamophobists.

Although I am irreligious, I find the arguments being applied against the construction of the center to be tasteless and in direct breach of the US Constitution but also generally accepted international rights on humans and freedom of expression/religion.

The whole passage on this issue is very confusing and I don't understand how something can loose credibility because it is subject to a coordinated News Corp-sponsored media campaign that has as its main goal to discredit Obama and the left-wing in US.

I believe it was completely right by Obama in a suitable situation like a iftar is, to underline that the constitution of USA guarantees freedom of religion. This is the job of every country's statesmen.

Beginning to take opinion polls in to consideration when freedom of expression/religion is concerned, is completely against these fundamental rights that characterize the Western civilization. We here have to do with a minority, and the principle of majority overrunning the minority is inapplicable principle in such a fundamental freedom. I am quit surprised how you can support this when you only some months ago said that Serbs in Kosovo were entitled to free mobile plans, free electricity, water etc in capacity of being a minority.

Giving rights to minorities is not very popular but that is the founding principle of a modern, civilized country and you can not put it to question, or you can do that but then you move towards the Chinese system.

This debate is also sending wrong signals to the Muslim world since it is giving support to the extremists who says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are in reality wars against their religion.

By the way interesting to read that almost quarter of Americans believe Obama is a Muslim.

Wim Roffel said...

Sorry to see you so offended by the "mosque". I think there are three perspectives:
- From the legal/general perspective: You claim it is a matter of freedom of religion. That would apply if it was just a random mosque that accidentally was planned near the WTC area. But this center is deliberately planned near the WTC area because it hopes to draw visitors who come for the WTC area. Thereby it uses the fact that both it and the terrorists are Muslims as a means to draw visitors. This comes very close to profiting from a crime.
- for Obama: as I indicate above this is not just about freedom of religion. By pretending that it is Obama is listening badly to the Americans. This is not Obama's business and as a president he should have done wisely to ignore the issue. By involving himself in every neighborhood quarrel a president devalues himself.
- for me personally. I have asked myself: if I was a Muslim and had the money, would I build an Islamic center close to the location of the destroyed WTC? My conclusion was that I wouldn't do it because it is bad taste.

When I heard for the first time about the plan I found it crazy. For my taste you just don't do such a thing. It looks like many Americans feel the same. Many politicians and journalists ignored this and it took Newscorp to make it an issue. But the issue was already there.

Stories said...

I don't know where you read I was offended?! I just pointed out that universal rights, at least in the Western world, that were considered holy until for a few years, know are being questioned. Beginning to take into account bad taste and good taste is according to me completely nonsense since we are talking about universal, fundamental rights. Many in the West find homosexuality very unnatural but they respect the choice made by those practicing it.

I see little consistency in your writings. Until now you have cried out weekly that Serbs are being given collective guilt for what some individuals did during the Yugoslav wars. Now you are giving 1 .3 billion Muslims(from Bosnia to Indonesia coming in every color) collective guilt for what some unelected people, cowards did in 01.

Obama did not bring the debate up to national level. It was the media and the islamophobe groups. When Obama spoke out, the issue was a major theme in all national newspapers and national politicians had already spoken out.

As far as News Corp concerned, they are known for using their newspapers for political campaigns. For me it is hard to accept that the owner after negotiating business conditions just can call to Times, The Sun, WSJ, Sky and order them to support Cameron, Bush, Palin etc. This is so undemocratic and actually political corruption.

Stories said...

Enough discussion for this time but maybe I will be back in the next months.
Good luck with the writings and I hope you take into account my comments