The Obama Problem

Paul Krugman has a good piece in the New York Times, “The Centrist Cop-Out”, in which he challenges the media for its obsession over “balance” instead of pointing out how extreme the Republican Party has become, to the point of blackmailing the country over the debt ceiling. Writes Krugman, “Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.””

But it’s not only the media that isn’t revealing the Republicans to be extremists. The Democrats also have not done their job in that respect, led by their party leader, President Obama. In fact, one can argue that the refusal of the Democrats to call a spade a spade has allowed the media to become somnambulant. If we are to assign blame, we have to acknowledge that Obama is pathologically obsessed with some notion of ‘bipartisanship’ despite the clearly obvious fact that he does not have a partner on the other side, and has not had one since Day 1. The man apparently is blind and tone deaf to the obvious, and that has allowed a fairly mediocre set of GOP leaders to back him into a corner time and time again. Sure, he has had to contend with some institutional constrainst such as a filibuster-gone-wild Senate (led by an extreme GOP), but at the end of the day his job as chief executive is to figure out how to get the job done. And this he has failed to do in what has become a repeated Groundhog Day pattern.

It’s clear at this point that Obama himself is lacking in important leadership qualities, including possibly courage since he doesn’t seem to have the heart to go to battle against the troglodytes. At a time when this country badly needed leadership in the aftermath of the economic collapse of 2008 and the disaster of the George W. Bush administration, instead we got an inexperienced junior Senator whose most redeeming quality, apparently, is that he can give a damn good speech and managed to convince a lot of “progressives” that he was one of them, despite any solid evidence of that based on his past achievements or history. His
(one term?) legacy will be that of a missed opportunity to push this country in a new direction. And as for progressive leaders and activists who fell for his act? Hopefully they have engaged in some self-criticism in which they have looked at HOW they allowed themselves to be played by the platinum-tongued senator from Illinois.

Steven Hill

Steven Hill is a U.S. journalist and author of seven books, including Raw Deal: How the Uber Economy and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers. He is currently in residence at the Berlin Social Science Center.