Muftic: Yes, I like Obama
July 5, 2011
The other day I was asked by a conservative friend of mine if I liked President Obama. Yes, I replied. I thought he had a good grasp of what was happening in the world and was intelligent and thoughtful.
The GOP is trying to turn these personal attributes into negative assets, accusing Obama of being a poor leader. I recently read an open memo from Karl Rove, the Republican strategist, warning Republicans not to attack the president personally because polls show he was liked personally by a very large number of the electorate. Instead, he should be attacked on the issues.
Recent GOP strategy has taken the third route: attacking his leadership abilities. However, what may be Obama’s leadership style could be of some value as good strategy as well.
Suspicions that somehow Obama was not a loyal American and a dangerous secret Muslim seemed to have receded to the shadows with his “getting bin Laden.” His approval ratings on national security have risen to the 70 percentiles. For most Americans he has passed the Commander in Chief, world class leadership test. His lifestyle personifying family values leads by example.
The attacks against Obama’s leadership are being phrased in terms that “He leads from behind”; he does not disclose what he wants to do until everyone else does. He takes a long time to make a decision, listening to competing views from his close advisers first and ruling decisively later, and letting this opponents hang themselves with unpopular trial balloons and proposals. Why do Republicans try to make a big deal of this?
After all, much of Obama’s style could be considered adult behavior and wisdom and even good strategy as practiced by great poker players who hold their cards close.
The economy is Obama’s Achilles heel that is now feeding the “leadership lacking” feeding frenzy. It has not recovered from the worst conditions since the Great Depression with the speed that anyone in the administration or in the general electorate had hoped. But while everyone with whom I have spoken feel their businesses and personal economic conditions are grim, they see some gradual improvement.
President Obama has made himself vulnerable to charges of failure to lead the parade in presenting a plan to improve the economy. His natural inclination is to think in terms of deductive reasoning that he expresses in paragraphs. He assumes, mistakenly sometimes, the public understands the whys of an issue as he exhorts them to accept his conclusions.
Until recently Obama has delayed responding immediately to Republican talking points, allowing his opponents to repeat half truths and non-factual points unchallenged until the public accepts them as gospel. The health care reform debate is a case in point. The GOP turned a positive improvement to peoples’ lives into threatening negatives of death panels and soaring costs that ignored Obama care’s savings to Medicare, federal deficits, and the entire health care system.
What is happening now is strategic jockeying for positions for the 2012 election. At stake is who will come up with the best plan to right the economy. The strategy practiced by both parties is predicated on who is going to take the fall for cuts in government services treasured by large constituency blocks, increasing tax burdens, reduction in subsidies to certain industries, and in removing special interest tax breaks.
The Republicans had it good so long as they spoke in generalities and avoided fingering what programs and entitlements they would touch. Their strategic error was buying into the Ryan Plan to cut Medicare benefits, condemned soundly by even their core supporters. Their blame game that Obama caused of the economic hard times failed to catch fire, too, as about 65 percent of the electorate did not fall for that line.
True, the president has held back on an economic recovery plan and let the Republicans take the fall first. It may not be leading from the front, but it may prove to be clever political strategy.
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