Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Germans Evaluate Obama's "Leadership"

From an article in Germany's Der Spiegel mazazine:
As America's first black president, Barack Obama electrified an entire nation. But now that the nation is in crisis, he seems unable to connect with the people. He wanted to change America and restore its reputation in the world. But now his opponents are dictating the country's political course.


When Barack Obama was elected almost three years ago, the country seemed intoxicated. The world allowed itself to be carried along by this wave of enthusiasm, and by its hopes for a new, more peaceful America. A crowd of 200,000 people came to hear him speak at the Victory Column in Berlin; Kenyans spent the entire election night dancing in front of their television sets; in Japan, the residents of a fishing village named Obama celebrated his victory; in Gaza, where hatred for America is normally the prevailing sentiment, there were exuberant parties; and in London, Madame Tussauds wax museum handed out free tickets.

Obama's election was the self-affirmation of a nation that wanted to prove that the American dream was still alive. Not voting for Obama would have been cynical, timid and un-American.

The world also had high hopes for a changed America, a country that would be less militaristic than it was under his predecessor, George W. Bush, and one that would pursue smarter policies, both in dealing with the Islamic world and on issues of environmental protection and climate change.


Obama's approval ratings have plunged, with only 40 percent of Americans now saying they are satisfied with his performance. In April 2009, shortly after his inauguration, some 68 percent of Americans were still on Obama's side.

All that remains of the great hopes Americans and the world had pinned on Obama, inspired by his stirring campaign speeches about change and renewal, is a battlefield of unsatisfactory and contradictory compromises. Obama, who just turned 50 and was once a symbol of youthful change, suddenly seems old and worn out, as gray as his hair has become.

His decline in popularity has also destroyed the hope that Obama could bring new momentum to America and the world. With the debt-ceiling debate, the right-wing Tea Party movement has taken both Congress and Obama's presidency hostage.


"By failing to address that populist anger, Obama gave his enemies the opening to co-opt it and turn it against him," Rich writes. In doing so, he left behind an emotional vacuum that enabled the Tea Party to rise to prominence. In turn, the party created a political climate in which reasonable efforts became impossible.

Obamaland has turned into the Land of the Tea Party.

In this country there is no longer any hope of reconciliation and unity, which was once the biggest and most hopeful promise of his candidacy. Obama hasn't healed the planet either -- an admittedly ambitious goal. Nevertheless, many believed him, so much so that in October 2009, after he had been in office only nine months, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


The first test for Obama came in early December 2009, when it was time to realign Washington's policy on Afghanistan. For Obama, Afghanistan had always been the "good war," the war that Bush had neglected because of Iraq. Over the objections of the political realists in his own administration, he decided to increase troop numbers by 30,000 soldiers, in a "surge" that he hoped would bring the Taliban to its knees. There were some successes, but no one can claim that the enemy has been defeated. On the contrary, the country remains unstable and at war. Now the Americans are beginning their withdrawal -- and they are not leaving as victors.


Obama has yet to find a convincing response to the revolutions that began with the Arab Spring. In Egypt, where he was long hesitant before eventually supporting the goals of the Arab Spring, the United States is less respected today than during the Bush administration.

It is now clear that Obama is simply not the man to help conflicting parties out of entrenched positions or give new impetus to an alliance. He instinctively leans toward measured, often delayed reactions, leaving his promises of change to fall by the wayside.

A member of his staff once characterized his foreign policy strategy as "leading from behind."


Compromise is the essence of democracy, but Obama's willingness to compromise has now become a problem. Critics claim to have discovered an "obsession with the political center" in Obama. His presidency today lacks a big, unifying idea.
I would say that is a very accurate assessment of Obama and his failings. What astounds me is that he is smart and people claimed he was a "fast learner" but he has shown himself recalcitrant to recognizing his faults or failings. He persists when he needs to change. He simply refuses to lead. He fails to have the energy and drive required of a real leader. He is pathetic.

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