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The Obama Non-Presidency

Is
Barack Obama a lousy president?

My
conservative friends have no doubt.  To
them he is a terrible president, bumbling, lazy and unfocused – the latter
especially true of the bungled introduction of his ill-conceived health plan.  My liberal pals insist that the jury is still
out, but concede that the longer the deliberation, the less likely a positive
verdict. 

Right
there the balance seems to be tilting in favour of lousy.  If the Left can’t decide whether a president
elected on a populist, radical liberal platform has been good, bad or
indifferent, then perhaps he has been plain bad.

I’m
still wavering between the two, but it is impossible to escape a feeling of
disappointment.  He has, it is true, had
to contend with a Congress controlled by the opposition party, but he is not
the first to have borne that cross.  He
should have grappled with the Republicans manfully and with intent, right from
the start, if necessary forcing a showdown backed by an appeal to the public.  Instead, he dithered, and allowed his
diffidence to undermine his policy.

That
diffidence invests everything he does and says. 
Even his supposed triumphs, such as eliminating Osama bin Laden, were
downplayed.  His speeches are dull, and
delivered in a matter-of-fact tone that fails to inspire.

I
think that is what’s missing: the spark of inspiration.  You don’t feel an urge to stand on your seat
and cheer after any peroration by Obama.

He
has done a decent job rebuilding the financial system from the wreckage of the
banking crisis, and its economic consequences. 
Wall Street seems to agree.  It
has had two successive years of virtually uninterrupted advance, last year many
fund managers reporting a performance in excess of an upside benchmark of over
twenty percent.     

In
foreign policy, too, Obama has if nothing else avoided pitfalls.  He is taking US troops out of Afghanistan –
and he is bringing them home, not switching them to some alternative war
zone.  Fences are being mended with Iran.  Critics say that America’s leadership role in the
world is diminishing, and Obama if not to blame, is at least nothing more than
a bewildered bystander.  But I think that
role would have diminished anyway.  Power
balances are shifting, whether gung-ho Americans like it or not.

He
still has three more years in office to stamp his personality more indelibly on
the office, but having spent five years failing to, the prospects of doing so
are far from promising.  In other words,
what we have seen from Obama so far is what we are likely to finish up
with.  

If
the Obama presidency is not marked down as one of the most eminent of the
post-second world war period, it will not be counted a disaster either.  It is a mediocrity, a kind of non-presidency.

That
in itself is the disappointment.

 

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