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Too Bad That Presidents Have to Make Decisions

December 7, 2008

M Obama apparently wants to be all things to all people. While campaigning for the presidency he showed this remarkable wont to be on both sides of virtualy all important issues. While he was a Senator in Illinois he chose not to choose on every other issue by voting “present.” This habit of avoiding decisions has stuck with him now that he is the President-elect.

It is just as Jim Geraghty points out here and here. There may not a day pass on which Obama doesn’t say something publicly but, except for the filling of his cabinet posts, the President-elect is eagerly keeping the public in the dark about his opinions and plans.

There is, of course, the possibility that Obama has his mind made up on questions concerning the recent terrorist attacks in India, the bailout of the Big Three, the next steps in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. but that for some reason he prefers to keep his thoughts to himself. “There is only one President at a time”, he is fond of reminding us. But the French Cowboy doubts that M Obama only wants to show respect for President Bush. I have another theory.

M Obama is still an untested man who has never had responsibilities heavy enough to prepare him for the job of being the President of the USA. Also, his life doesn’t tell the story of a doer. He is more of a ponderer. And yet some of his answers and comments do not make him sound like a man who has actually meditated much on issues that are of immense importance for public decision makers. Apart some very leftish opinions on domestic issues, his political philosophy is still in the making. The President-elect may be steadfast as a rock when it comes to “a woman’s right to choose”, but will he stick to his ‘conviction’ that the rich have to get soaked as a matter of fairness when this threatens to ruin an already gloomy economy?

En bref, the French Cowboy believes that M Obama is not ready to be President. He is both unprepared and not the type of character to have an easy time making up his mind. He may have some big plans for certain areas (especially social areas, I would assume) but the live-or-die questions the sort of which have risen with the economic meltdown and which are constantly with us in a dangerous world in foreign policy areas have to be sorted out first. And here is where Obama is surprised by the harshness of reality and where the fruits of his decisions will be traceable to what he did in a much clearer fashion than on issues like education. Unsure of what to do and not keen to ruin his standing, Obama treads lightly.

Too bad that decision making is an essential part of leading which a president typically is supposed to do. But it won’t get us far if we dwell on buyer’s remorse. So the French Cowboy will continue to do so only to the end of this post (don’t bind me on that, though) and will quote Dean Barnett from last summer (and I wish he were still among us to say “I told you so.”):

Here’s what I don’t get: Obama spent the entire primary season showing a shocking breadth of ignorance on a staggering array of issues. As I’ve written many times, he has never come across as a man who has given policy matters much serious thought. It was a telling moment when he was photographed with Fareed Zakaria’s latest book. While I thought the book was weak, even if one thought otherwise it still inarguably wasn’t exactly groundbreaking in any scholarly or philosophical sense. It was the thinly footnoted ramblings of a Newsweek columnist. Little in it would have been new (except for the fact that America is defintiely in decline because we no longer have the world’s biggest Ferris Wheel) to a wonk or a big-brained Harvard law grad who had been pondering significant matters for decades. The fact that Obama had possibly turned to it as a potential repository of deep thoughts was equal parts disturbing and laughable.

The point is this: Whatever positions Obama has espoused have not been the result of a hard-earned and rigorously arrived at political philosophy. As such, his positions will inevitably prove malleable as he goes through the process of familiarizing himself with policy debates. To put it another way, can you really flop if you never flipped in the first place?

Or try another formulation: Is Obama such an attractive figure and his hope/change shtick so alluring that we should just give him the presidency and let him figure out where he stands once he gets into office?

And this (after M Obama told us that his uncle helped deliberate Auschwitz):

Don’t you think a guy who might be president would be obsessed with world events? Don’t you think that obsession would have driven him into the race? And don’t you think as a potential wartime leader he might be using his downtime to study, just in case he wins? For instance, Barack Obama obviously knows nothing of war, but he could help himself if he opted to read some Thucydides rather than watch SportsCenter.

Obama has made a habit of coming across like a man who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. That’s bothersome enough, but what’s more worrisome still is how comfortable he is with not knowing what he’s talking about, and how convinced he seems that his rhetorical flourishes will obscure his ignorance. That strategy may work on the campaign trail, but it certainly won’t help him govern.


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