By Sal Bommarito
Being President of the United States is a very tough job. For politicians, it is the most coveted position in America, but it takes a toll, if the sudden appearance of gray hair is an accurate barometer of stress. See any recent photos of President Obama.
More and more, Americans feel that the current man in the job has been unsuccessful. Obama’s problems began early in his presidency when he expended a huge amount of political capital to enact the Affordable Care Act, not so affectionately known as Obamacare. The timing of this initiative could not have been worse as the economy was still struggling. The federal government should have been focusing on increasing employment, not establishing a new entitlement.
Soon scandals and missteps were popping up all over including the IRS targeting conservative groups, bad decisions in Benghazi that cost the lives of an ambassador and others in the embassy and inappropriate behavior in our veterans’ hospitals. Most recently, the Obama administration is like a deer in the headlights, unable to respond to developing and continuing crises in the Middle East and the Ukraine.
In fairness, problems arise for all presidents. It is the ability to cope with these challenges that differentiates our leaders. Unfortunately, “leader” is not something that is often tagged onto Obama. It is this reality that has hurt his presidency the most.
Before diving into the concept of leadership, we should identify the most important thing every president must have to be effective. A president-elect chooses his cabinet and White House staff soon after Election Day. In most cases, a president can convince almost anyone to work for him. After all, who would turn down a direct request from the most powerful person on earth? There is absolutely no excuse for a president not to have the most competent people on earth by his side.
Personnel choices are both practical and political. The president needs staff that can interpret the pulse of the nation and the ebbs and flows of Congress. But also, the president needs people who are experts on a plethora of issues that arise covering a broad swath of government activity ranging from the economy to health care to defense to diplomacy.
With a distinguished staff, a president can do wonders even if his party does not control every branch of the government. The president must be confident that the minutiae of every situation are vetted before he leads and authorizes action. It is impossible for any one person to have a working knowledge of all the issues that may cross the president’s desk, even if the president is Barack Obama.
A lack of expertise has hurt Obama domestically and in foreign affairs. On the home front, the president decided to ram his ideologies down our throat. Progressive and very controversial proposals that could only be enacted with widespread support of Congress were dead on arrival. After his election, the president spent little time building coalitions with other politicians and seemingly expected blind acceptance of his proposals.
Overseas, the president took the title of leader of the free world to an extreme. He did not form strong bonds with foreign leaders and did not heed their advice. Once again, a dearth of diplomatic expertise resulted in a chaotic and indecisive decision making process.
Let’s discuss leadership. In some types of governments, leaders tell their subordinates and citizens what to do. In America, our president must form alliances to solve complicated and controversial problems. He must build consensus.
The president must convince lawmakers and the public that he has done the research and spoken with many informed individuals before presenting a plan of action. For instance, a lot of the torment and division during the past six years caused by Obamacare could have been avoided if the president had listened to those who insisted that medical reform should have been delayed in favor of stimulating the economy.
Americans do not respond favorably to leaders who are condescending, smug and act like they are smarter than those they govern. We want to be treated with respect. Ideological bullying only works for dictators.
The president has apparently given up and seems ambivalent even as the world becomes more dangerous and fragile. He refuses to alter his attitude and method of operation, so he is unable to pass any significant legislation. This is not to say that Republican obstructionism is good for the country. But, what did the president expect from the branch of government that he despises?
I am totally disheartened by the state of our federal government and just about every move the president has proposed in recent months. If he had more capable advisers and listened to the electorate, America would be in better condition and not demonized by so many other nations around the world.