Shutdown Threat Tests Obama’s Leadership Skills

Oh, wait, sorry, the headline for Dan Balz’s Washington Post opinion piece says “style,” not “skills.” Surprised? I’m not. Kinda hard to discuss skills that a person lacks. One would think that a former community organizer would posses some leadership skills, yet, I suppose whipping up some people who are agitated to begin with is quite a bit different from being the CEO of a nation. Anyhow

This has been a season of leadership tests for President Obama. From Egypt to Libya and now the budget, he has been called upon to deal with rapidly unfolding events, and the questions about his leadership style have followed a consistent pattern.

Is he too slow to react? Is he diffident in the face of serious challenges? Is he reluctant to exercise the full powers of the presidency? Would events have turned out differently had he moved with greater force earlier?

Is he playing golf again, shooting some hoops, attending a party or campaign event, taking yet another vacation? All good questions.

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If Obama has shown anything in his two-plus years in the White House, it is a combination of substantive ambition and procedural caution. Add to that an innate distaste for ideological confrontation and his dislike for the demands of the 24/7 news cycle that often rules Washington’s political community.

Let’s translate that: he’s a massive ideologue who doesn’t take kindly to people with their own political points of view, gets upset that news organizations are allowed to ask him questions, and he wants to achieve a lot of stuff, but is unqualified to understand how to get it done.

His advisers argue that his forward thinking, his persistence and his patience have produced desired results and allowed him to achieve notable successes. But they have come at the price of doubts about the strength of his leadership and his commitment to take on the fights that his supporters think are necessary.

A true leader would have convinced the country that legislation like Stimulus and Obamacare were the right things to pass, instead of what actually went on. A true leader would have listened to the people when they said “these are really, really bad ideas.” A true leader wouldn’t launch a war of choice and wait 10 days to give a mealy mouthed speech that left things just as confused as previous. And, really, passing legislation is only a “notable success” inside the Beltway. In the real world, legislation is a notable success when it achieves desirable results.

As in all the leadership tests he has faced, the Obama record will rest on whether his style, seen by some scholars as almost unique among presidents, produces productive results. The deadline on round one is coming fast.

Almost unique in that his “style” lacks any actual leadership skills. His style has always been to avoid the tough votes. Prior to the 2008 election, Conservatives said that he wouldn’t be able to vote “present” when sitting in the big chair. I guess Obama went and proved us wrong.

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