Obama: Our Progressive Leader

Everyone wants to talk about whether or not the BP spill is Obama’s Katrina.

I don’t.  The policy debate is uninteresting because it compares apples (man-caused disaster under direct federal regulation) to oranges (natural disaster with no direct connection to the federal government).  It’s petty and short-sighted politics as usual to link Bush/Katrina to Obama/Oil Spill, just as it was opportunistic hypocrisy to blame Bush for what was largely state-level inability to respond to Katrina.

Most importantly, it’s simply too early to start sorting out culpability.  We don’t have the facts right now, and I’m not interested in getting the facts until after the oil stops flowing.

Despite being completely uninterested in the blame-game, however, I’ve become fascinated by the snowballing disaster that is Obama’s failure of leadership in this time of crisis.  The one thing I always trusted Obama to do well was domestic PR.  His campaign machine was ajuggernaut of popularity and the paragon of message-control.  So – given the expertise, talent, and experience of Team Obama – what explains the growing feeling that Obama is failing as a leader?

As a recent Gallup poll reveals, President Obama’s favorability ratings have never been lower.

These are the guys who live by the motto “never let a crisis go to waste”, and here is a read-made crisis with their name all over it.  It’s got everything from evil corporations to an earth in peril, and it’s the job of the federal government to ride in and fix it all.  This should be the point where Obama’s poll numbers rebound and shoot upwards.  Why aren’t they?

Conservatives have their opinions.  Dorothy Rabinowitz writes in the Wall Street Journal of Obama’s alienation from the American people:

Those qualities to be expected in a president were never about rhetoric; Mr. Obama had proved himself a dab hand at that on the campaign trail. They were a matter of identification with the nation and to all that binds its people together in pride and allegiance. These are feelings held deep in American hearts, unvoiced mostly, but unmistakably there and not only on the Fourth of July.

A great part of America now understands that this president’s sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs. He is hard put to sound convincingly like the leader of the nation, because he is, at heart and by instinct, the voice mainly of his ideological class. He is the alien in the White House, a matter having nothing to do with delusions about his birthplace cherished by the demented fringe.

She is right.  Barack Obama is simply not in tune with ordinary Americans.  His message of hope, reform, sacrifice, and pragmatism was dead-on, but his actual leadership style has seemed distant and remote because he simply doesn’t care about the things that we care about.

Mitt Romney raises another explanation – Obama’s perpetual blame-game – in an opinion piece at USA Today:

Has it come to this again? The president is meeting with his oil spill experts, he crudely tells us, so that he knows “whose ass to kick.” We have become accustomed to his management style — target a scapegoat, assign blame and go on the attack. To win health care legislation, he vilified insurance executives; to escape bankruptcy law for General Motors, he demonized senior lenders; to take the focus from the excesses of government, he castigated business meetings in Las Vegas; and to deflect responsibility for the deepening and lengthening downturn, he blames Wall Street and George W. Bush. But what may make good politics does not make good leadership. And when a crisis is upon us, America wants a leader, not a politician.

He is right, too.  Looking for someone else to pin the responsibility on is not what leaders do.  You have to decide which problem is a higher priority: the problem of oil washing up on American beaches or the problem of finding someone to punish.  American’s are practical people, and we’d rather fix the problem first and figure out who to punish afterwards.  But even more fundamentally, placing blame is an act of looking backwards. Leading means moving forward. As long as he’s looking for someone’s ass to kick he’s is failing as a leader.

What’s truly interesting to me about this story isn’t the on-target analysis of conservatives, however, but the amazingly bad advice Obama is getting from his ideological allies.  He’s not alone in a sea of detachment.  He’s got a whole fleet of ignoramuses for company.

The gist of the advice he received from most liberals was simple: get angry.  Spike Lee wanted him to “go off”.  So, finally, he did.  That’s where we got that “whose ass to kick” line, and it went over like a lead balloon.

Liberals were unwilling to admit that it had been bad advice all along, and so instead we get articles like this one: Why Obama doesn’t dare become the ‘angry black man’.  Sure, dredge up some antiquated racial stereotypes.  Play the race card.  What the American people really want to hear now is more excuses.  If some white man had talked about “whose ass to kick” the public would have lapped it up, but we’re just all terrified of angry black men.  As usual the world can be divided into two kinds of people: those who adore Barack Obama and everything he does and the rest of us racists.

The real problem is that progressive political philosophy is based around an elitism/entitlement alliance that enshrines victimhood.  Here’s how it works: progressive elites want more power to make Americans do what’s best for them.  To entice Americans to tolerate an ever more invasive government presence in their lives, elites offer a treasure trove of government handouts: free education, free healthcare, cheap housing, easy jobs, guaranteed pensions, and whatever else you can think of.  If the deal were offered in those stark terms – give us more power and we’ll pay you off – no one would take it.  That’s were the idea of victimhood comes in.

Victimhood plays two roles.  First of all it sweetens the deal psychologically for the recipients of government largesse.  If you’ve ever tried to give free stuff away to strangers you’ll know that they are often unwilling to take it, but if you can first sell someone the notion that they are entitled to it the reluctance vanishes.  They’re not handouts.  They’re rights.

Secondly the notion of victimhood presupposes a victimizer.  This is important, because liberals don’t actually intend to pay for any of the free stuff they are giving away, but someone has to.  Just as their supporters are entitled by their victim-status to the freebies, their targets – rich, white men in particular – are obligated by their status as victimizers to pay for it.  And – should they try to resist – the elites are backed up by a large and growing number of American citizens ready to take to the streets in defense of their new-found “rights” to anything from low-interest mortgages to illegal entry into the country.

These three notions – elitism, entitlement, and victimhood – are the very essence of practical progressivism in the United States, and it would be impossible to overstate how deeply embedded they are in the progressive paradigm: Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan even describes Islamic terrorists as “victims of political, economic and social forces.”

Obama – as Rabinowitz described – is a product of this paradigm.  And that makes his mysterious failures suddenly easy to understand.  In the progressive paradigm it’s not Obama’s job to provide a solution the BP oil spill problems any more than it was his job to find a realistic way to pay for free healthcare.  It’s just his job to provide the victim narrative.  Then we the victims feel entitled to a solution and he – as Romney described – can go find a victimizer and make them clean up the mess.

The problem is that Americans don’t think that way.  The spirit of America is the spirit of self-reliance and individualism.  We don’t want our leaders to find someone to blame or to find someone else to fix our problems.  We want our leaders to be at the forefront of us fixing our own problems.  Kennedy told us to ask not what our country could do for us, but what we could do for our country.  That is leadership.  Obama spouting impotent outrage, indignation, and sending the attorney general to look into pressing charges is not.

Unfortunately the fallout from Obama’s enactment of the progressive playbook aren’t limited to his poll numbers.  In addition to concerns that the Federal response has been slow and half-hearted, the damage of his rhetoric is spreading overseas.  BP was once “British Petroleum”, but is now simply “BP”.  Although it remains the largest corporation based in England, it’s a truly multinational corporation with thousands of employees in the United States and other countries.  So why does Obama insist on calling it “British Petroleum” and antagonizing our allies?  It’s not just words, either.  One out of every 6 pension dollars in the UK depend on BP, and so when the Obama administration talks about putting their boot on the throat of BP that boot is also on the throats of an entire nation’s retirement income.  It’s truly reckless and ignorant to continue the charade in which it’s possible to punish corporations without collateral damage to innocent employees, shareholders, and customers.

The bright side to all this is the same as the bright side to all of Obama’s presidency: the public  unmasking of progressivism.  Very little of this has anything to do with Obama personally.  He is just demonstrating to America how progressivism really works.  And Americans are shocked at what they are seeing.

In defending the fact that he hasn’t met with the CEO of BP a single time Obama said “My experience is when you talk to a guy like a BP CEO he’s going to say all the right things to me.  I’m not interested in words..  I’m interested in actions.”  And yet during the primary debates he was ready to meet with any enemy of America without preconditions.  We’ve got a president who not only would rather meet with terrorist-supporting tyrants than with the CEO of BP, but who doesn’t even see anything wrong with that.

When all is said and done it’s not the Obama is failing to be a leader, it’s that he’s succeeding at being the wrong kind of leader.  The cost to our nation could be enormous, but nobody ever said tuition was cheap at the School of Hard Knocks and Tough Surprises.

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Comments

  1. Pail and Shovel says:

    …..if only these little tar balls were 2012 votes, sigh ……..

  2. Double Down says:

    My money is on the green line.

  3. John Buyon says:

    here is how conservatism works
    divide the people
    phantom enemies
    massive corporate sponsored falsification and lies
    insistence on fake fairness
    dogmatic reliance on ideology that has worn out its lifespan

  4. R.B. says:

    What you say is true. But you have only covered the tip. He is so out of touch that he has stopped the deep drills for 6 months. I understand that there are 30,000 deep rigs in the gulf and 300,000 people from LA alone put out of work because POTUS wont let them pump for 6 months. This while he makes BP pay all who have lost money because of PB’s rig spilling in the gulf. How many more wont be able to work because of him stopping the rigs, Tx; MS & AL. Maybe 2 or 3,000,000? Thats a lot and we already have 9% unemployed. Now the American people are not stupid, they know when the rigs down in the gulf stop that the price at the pump must go up as we well have to import more. And they know that POTUS cause this.

  5. R.B. says:

    One more thing. The oil companies that own the rigs can not let them sit 6 months doing nothing. They well be moved, so there goes American Tech. to some other country. And to top it they well not drop everything and come back at end of 6 months. POTUS has put the U.S. in the stew pot and turned up the heat and most Americans know.

  6. Robert Wallace says:

    John,

    That’s another strike out, I’m afraid. It’s unclear what you’re trying to get across other than a sort of vague, ambiguous collection of conservative-stereotypes.

  7. nana3 says:

    Robert,

    Great analysis of progressivism and I agree Obama is succeeding in showing every American citizen how it works. We have NO excuse for not seeing what he is doing to this country. I can only pray it isn’t already too late but while I am optimistic, I can honestly say I fear my own government more than I do Iran or any other country. By the way, an appropriate caption to the picture would be: ANOTHER TAR BALL WASHES UP ON THE BEACH…tar ball meaning an ‘unwanted pollutant’….we don’t need any more pollution on our beaches and his presence has not helped in any way to address the problems of the Gulf Coast. There are methods of dealing with the spill that should have been used quickly like Kevin Costner’s centrafuges or the bioremediation as illustrated on http://www.spillfighters.com. As many have said, the people in our government are not stupid so it becomes apparent that their actions are orchestrated to implement the overall agenda. WAKE UP AMERICA!

  8. whats_up says:

    R.B. says I understand that there are 30,000 deep rigs in the gulf and 300,000 people from LA alone put out of work because POTUS wont let them pump for 6 months

    Where does this exateration (sp) come from. It seems to pop up all the time. There are 33 deep drilling oil rigs, not 30,000. 75,000 people will be effected by the moratorium not 300,000. Cant you criticize without lying. Give me a break.

  9. T.I.M. says:

    A couple of additional reported facts on the oil spill: The drilling rig
    was approved on Obama’s watch, and given a waiver from some safety requirements.
    The moratorium on drilling is the result of a report which had a couple of paragraphs added to it after the experts signed it.

    Our leader has a bad habit of pointing his finger 180 degrees in the wrong direction.

  10. Boston Blackie says:

    Another example of what happens when you vote in an empty suit who (he and his admin) had no management experience. He has no record of decision making except to vote present. He wants us to know “he has had meetings” about the spill. We all know that when the unemployment rate jumps because of HIS decision to freeze deep drilling, it will be “unexpected” and of course everyone else’s but his fault. Someone needs to give him a quicky course in economics and the trickle down theory of his inability to lead.
    BTW, Robert, thanks for jumping head first into keeping AR going while Jeff needs to be MIA. We appreciate what you and the other contributors are doing.

  11. Graham Bell says:

    1:09 is simply a party line.And nobody is listening. No matter how many ringy-dingys.

  12. We're dieing down here. says:

    He’ll show us his birth certificate before he shows us some true leadership.

  13. Opposites attack (Oh to dream) says:

    1:09 “divide the people”

    You do that as well Buyon, because those of us with common sense want to get as far away from you as possible.

  14. Duh says:
  15. Mike says:

    “As usual the world can be divided into two kinds of people: those who adore Barack Obama and everything he does and the rest of us racists.”

    If you are open to criticism, try to avoid false dichotomies. It’s a cheap style of argumentation that lacks integrity.

  16. Dee says:

    Robert, I agree completely. John Buyon, are you describing conservatism or this administration?

  17. Robert Wallace says:

    Mike-

    I agree that it’s a false dichotomy. That was the entire point of me writing it: to highlight the fact that it’s a false dichotomy. The world doesn’t actually split into supporters of Barack Obama and racists.

    But the part where you think I was actually using the false dichotomy rather than ridiculing it is where you leave me confused. I’m curious; which did you think I was calling myself? An Obama supporter or a racist?

    This is certainly one of the oddest comments I’ve ever replied to.

  18. R. B. says:

    One of the news channels did report that there was 30,000 deep rigs, It is possible that number is off. What they may have meant is that there is 30,000 total rigs. But I’m sure that there is quite a few more than 30. As for the number of employed that was reported by a senator from LA as 300,000 In that state alone didnt say how many in all the other gulf states. 75,000 is way too few. Don’t forget its like the military, for every man on the front lines there are several supporting him.

  19. Buydown says:

    Here is how liberalism works:

    divide the people…… conservatives with common sense on one side
    phantom enemies…….. god loving and fearing people
    massive corporate sponsored falsification and lies….. cap and trade ala Gore
    insistence on fake fairness……. socialism
    dogmatic reliance on ideology that has worn out its lifespan…. communism

  20. We the People says:

    Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians.

    -Chester Bowles

  21. Karla says:

    Obama has turned away help from the Dutch. They offered to send in skimmers within 3 days of the spill. There have been other offers of help. However, Obama wants the oil spill to destroy the environment to further his green jobs agenda. I subscribe to the newsletter put out by the Democratic Party to keep abreast of what disinformation they are sending out. Here is an excerpt from the last newsletter, “Friend –

    The BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast is the worst environmental disaster of its kind in our nation’s history. I am returning to the region today to review our efforts and meet with families and business owners affected by the catastrophe.

    We are working to hold BP accountable for the damage to the lands and the livelihoods of the Gulf Coast, and we are taking strong precautions to make certain a spill like this never happens again.

    But our work will not end with this crisis. That’s one of the reasons why last week I invited lawmakers from both parties to join me at the White House to discuss what it will take to move forward on legislation to promote a new economy powered by green jobs, combat climate change, and end our dependence on foreign oil….”

    It is sickening.

  22. Gail B. says:

    Mike at 10:06 a.m. said, “If you are open to criticism, try to avoid false dichotomies. It’s a cheap style of argumentation that lacks integrity.”

    Mike, before you start pointing your finger at Robert, check out what Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano had to say about Americans who want the US Constitution upheld, Americans who want the federal government to stop spending, Americans who want freedom of speech left alone, Americans who do not want the federal government nosing around in our emails and Internet.

    It’s not the American people who are racist; it’s the Progressives who play the race card. (And we say “racism” because it’s easier to say than “ethnicism.”) Whenever Americans don’t agree with a Progressive agenda, WE ARE CALLED RACISTS, for the soul purpose of forcing a guilt trip on mostly white folks. But how can the Progressives do that when there are black Americans who are even more conservative politically than my retired civil engineer friend from high school is?

    If you would use your head instead of trying to impress us with 50-cent words (as my daddy used to call them), you would carry some weight with us.

  23. John Buyon says:

    @ Gail
    Hold up buddy
    that report was commissioned by the Bush admin plus a report before that one stated the code pink and environmentalist groups could join the anti-war left wing and conduct terrorist attacks on US soil.
    plus the DHS was set up by Bush not Obama. if I was conspiracy-minded I could very easily see the Dept of Homeland Security becoming the nucleus of an american gestapo.
    the progressives pull out the race card because conservatives give us so many chances of playing it ! :)
    We want racism to die but a rough 25% of the american electorate corresponding to the die hard evangelicals and the tea party ppl are longing for the Wallace campaign and wish the south could rise again.
    if the tea partiers love America so much why do they fly a confederate flag?

  24. Yawn Buyon says:

    We don’t need Canadians worrying about which flag we fly. Eh
    The stars and stripes no longer reflect what they did 234 years ago.
    It’s back to the Betsy Ross for me. When we are indeed united STATES again, it’s back to the one you can buy at Walmart.

  25. Boston Blackie says:

    John Boy-
    “We want racism to die but a rough 25% of the american electorate corresponding to the die hard evangelicals and the tea party ppl are longing for the Wallace campaign and wish the south could rise again.
    if the tea partiers love America so much why do they fly a confederate flag?”

    Boy, talk about racists- try starting with the man in the mirror. BTW the only flags I see at tea party rallies are the AMERICAN flag as well as the Don’t Tread on Me flags. Why don’t you hit up Wikipedia to find the history behind that flag. Stop pulling these crazy numbers and comments out from where the sun don’t shine.

  26. Randy Wills says:

    to “John Buyon”:

    Truly John, you are God’s gift to AR. You keep a clear picture in front of us “racist evangelicals” and political conservatives (meaning individual responsibility and small government)of how the Obama progressives think and act.

    Keep it up. I for one don’t want your image to go away. It motivates persons such as I to keep our focus on the battle that lies ahead if we are to recover the America that our Founders (and a million or two lives given to preserve it)gave us.

    As you can see, the “floor needs more wiping”. Go for it.

    Randy

  27. John Buyon says:

    @ 11:26 , Boston, Randy
    http://killinmesoftly.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/racist_tea_party.jpg
    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/zh9GrIKmnQg/0.jpg
    http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/IMG_00311.JPG

    I will take comfort in the fact that demographically you people’s version of America is quiet literally dieing off.
    beware of the spooky secular socialist to take over !!!

  28. Dee says:

    Randy, I have to agree that John Buyon does remind us that November is coming. He is interesting to have around.
    John Buyon, don’t be too sure that we are dieing off.

  29. Randy Wills says:

    Well, John @ 1:35 PM, you may be right. I hope not, but I live my life, spiritually speaking, as if I were the only person left on earth who believes as I do and I’m being led to the gallows. Should that be the case, I’ll be in good company. If you want to know how life should be lived, you ought to read the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    Randy

  30. Eh says:

    Why do we allow Canadians in here?

  31. John Buyon says:

    @ Randy
    I took the time to read about Dietrich Bonhoeffer. and if you model yourself on him than you are a hero with a proper role model.

    @ 4:43
    why do Canadians spill blood and treasure helping america beat the taliban in helmand?

  32. Randy Wills says:

    Thanks, John, and yes, Bonhoeffer is one of my “heros”. I’m not a theologian, so I can’t swear that he was always right, but he was a man of great courage and “believed unto death”.

    I have the 1000-page biography of Bonhoeffer by Eberhard Bethge, one of his early students and later an associate in the struggle against Nazism on the book shelves across the room from me as I write this. One would also do well to read Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” to understand what it really means to be a believer.

    Randy

  33. Salute says:

    The brave ones believe in FREEDOM, LIBERTY and SECURITY.

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