The “Being There” president

June 26, 2011

It’s been common on the Right to compare President Obama to another awful president, Jimmy Carter (indeed, Glenn Reynolds famously said that’s a best-case scenario). The Left (and some on the Right) instead compared him to FDR or Kennedy — and even God.

Michael Barone sees another similarity, one that’s amusing because, on reflection, it seems so apt: Obama as Chauncey Gardiner, the passive little man from the book and movie “Being There,” whom everyone thought was brilliant, but just “liked to watch:”

As you may remember, Gardiner is a clueless gardener who is mistaken for a Washington eminence and becomes a presidential adviser. Asked if you can stimulate growth through temporary incentives, Gardiner says, “As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well in the garden.” “First comes the spring and summer,” he explains, “but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.” The president is awed as Gardiner sums up, “There will be growth in the spring.”

Kind of reminds you of Obama’s approach to the federal budget, doesn’t it?

In preparing his February budget, Obama totally ignored the recommendations of his own fiscal commission headed by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson. Others noticed: The Senate rejected the initial budget by a vote of 97-0.

Then, speaking in April at George Washington University, Obama said he was presenting a new budget with $4 trillion in long-term spending cuts. But there were no specifics.

Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf was asked last week if the CBO had prepared estimates of this budget. “We don’t estimate speeches,” Elmendorf, a Democrat, explained. “We need much more specificity than was provided in that speech for us to do our analysis.”

Evidently “first we have the spring and summer” was not enough.

Read it all, as Barone finds more evidence of “Chauncey-ism” in Obama’s approach to governing.

Of course, while I said it was amusing and I did enjoy both the book and the movie, Obama’s passive, detached style is absolutely what the nation does not need when it faces such daunting problems at home and abroad. We need a president who’s actively involved, not one who’s content “being there.”

Unfortunately, we have to wait until at least November, 2012, to find that person.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Krauthammer on Obama and “leading from behind”

April 29, 2011

I wrote about this amazing statement of an Obama Doctrine a few days ago. Well, it’s more accurate to say I sputtered in disbelief at it. In today’s Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer actually analyzes it in a penetrating article I could emulate only in my dreams. The whole piece is a must-read, but here is his discussion of the administration’s perceived need to lead from behind because the world hates us:

It is the fate of any assertive superpower to be envied, denounced and blamed for everything under the sun. Nothing has changed. Moreover, for a country so deeply reviled, why during the massive unrest in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan and Syria have anti-American demonstrations been such a rarity?

Who truly reviles America the hegemon? The world that Obama lived in and shaped him intellectually: the elite universities; his Hyde Park milieu (including his not-to-be-mentioned friends, William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn); the church he attended for two decades, ringing with sermons more virulently anti-American than anything heard in today’s full-throated uprising of the Arab Street.

It is the liberal elites who revile the American colossus and devoutly wish to see it cut down to size. Leading from behind — diminishing America’s global standing and assertiveness — is a reaction to their view of America, not the world’s.

Other presidents have taken anti-Americanism as a given, rather than evidence of American malignancy, believing — as do most Americans — in the rightness of our cause and the nobility of our intentions. Obama thinks anti-Americanism is a verdict on America’s fitness for leadership. I would suggest that “leading from behind” is a verdict on Obama’s fitness for leadership.

Leading from behind is not leading. It is abdicating. It is also an oxymoron. Yet a sympathetic journalist, channeling an Obama adviser, elevates it to a doctrine. The president is no doubt flattered. The rest of us are merely stunned.

Three points, nothing but net.

RELATED: More Krauthammer — “Decline is a choice.”

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)