The Obama Watch

The Obama Way

Leading in rhetoric; missing in action.

By 8.10.11

Send to Kindle

There he is, talking again.

If the markets could express thought in verbal instead of monetary form, that would've been the vocalization on Monday afternoon as President Obama, for some reason, gave a press conference. As markets usually do, they expressed themselves in numbers instead. The Dow fell 634 points, its sixth-worst decline in 112 years.

The decline came not in response to Obama's content-free press conference. It came despite the press conference. The man who has the power to halt the rise of the oceans with his words was entirely ignored -- while speaking.

About those words. Since assuming the office of president, the greatest political orator of our time, as you might have heard, has been a singular failure in the art of persuasion. His early legislative accomplishments came through old-fashioned Washington arm-twisting, as he failed to convince majorities in Congress that they were good ideas. He could not even get a working majority of his own party to vote for his massive health insurance law without packing it full of the sort of giveaways he campaigned against only the year before.

The public still dislikes the health care law, his signature accomplishment in office. The people disliked the stimulus and the bailouts so much that they elected a bunch of "crazies" to block any similar attempts in the future.

And yet Obama still fancies himself a devastatingly effective orator. His answer to every single problem is not action, but speech. He scolds; he admonishes; he jokes; he lectures. And every time, he fails.

"His speeches leave the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea," William McAdoo, Wilson's treasury secretary, said of Warren Harding. So it is with Obama.

The American people have begun to realize that his words are mere puffs of vapor dissipating in the hot Washington air. They are utterly void of meaning.

"No matter what some agency may say, we've always been and always will be a AAA country."

That means what, exactly? That the downgrade is meaningless? So why hold the press conference?

The downgrade was a big deal, a big-enough deal that Obama realized he needed to do something about it. What? Hold a press conference, of course. But say what? Nothing. He issued no plan to deal with the debt, the downgrade, or the economy. His entire contribution was to utter the same exhausted platitudes he has uttered for months, even years.

"So it's not a lack of plans or policies that's the problem here," he said. "It's a lack of political will in Washington. It's the insistence on drawing lines in the sand, a refusal to put what's best for the country ahead of self-interest or party or ideology. And that's what we need to change."

Then there was this: "We are still early in this process.… [W]e have not drawn lines in the sand, other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don't have health insurance or are under-insured."

That was Obama during a press conference in June of 2009. The Associated Press reported then: "If an issue arises during congressional debate on health care about which he has a strong opinion, 'I will express [it] to members of Congress as this is shaping up,' Obama said. 'It's too early to say that.'"

Said Obama on Monday, "I intend to present my own recommendations over the coming weeks on how we should proceed."

Give a speech. Let Congress lead. Take action only at the very last second, and only if absolutely necessary. No "lines in the sand." No leadership. It's the Obama way.

Like this Article

Print this Article

Print Article
About the Author

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. You can follow him on Twitter at @Drewhampshire.