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The AWOL Presidency

February 14, 2009

By the title the French Cowboy doesn’t allude to Obama’s escape trip to a public school where he told his young admirers that he was “just tired of being in the White House” not quite two weeks after his inauguration, but to what appears to be his leadership style – or rather the lack thereof. Granted, M Obama has been in office only a few weeks now, but the man who assured everybody that he knows that he will have to “hit the ground running” can’t seem to get out of “campaign mode” and into “govern mode” as easily as he should.

The so-called stimulus bill is the most striking and the most important example. Its other ramifications apart, the bill is of major political importance for Obama. Yet the President let congressional Democrats make up the “stimulus” package all on their own. All he did regarding the bill was doing what he – purportedly – does best: hit the campaign trail. The way he spoke about the bill makes you even doubt whether he has at least read it. (No earmarks, mon œuil!)

The numerous personnel issues Obama has experienced can – at least in part – also be explained by the President’s lack of leadership. He didn’t seem to have entirely made up his mind on whether he wanted to govern in the most ethical White House ever or not after all. The same is true about contradictory messages that the White House sent during the last weeks. (Think, for instance, about Zinni’s appointment as ambassador to Iraq which, on second thought, wasn’t.) Some of those difficulties are also due to Obama’s decision to put people with big egos on his team without setting clear lines of responsibilities. It’s a recipe for turf wars and even more so when the boss doesn’t call the shots.

Bill Kristol summarises instances of Obama’s lack of leadership in the Weekly Standard’s editorial.

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