As I write this, there are reports of a new magnitude 6.2 earthquake off the northeast cost of Japan. The Fukushima reactor complex appears to be heading for a meltdown. Thousands in Japan are dead. The disaster is poised to unleash a financial crisis unlike any the world has seen.
Shockwaves from this crisis will slam into an exhausted, insolvent American government, driven to helpless insolvency by a mad spending spree over the last two years, and decades of liberal policy before that. Congress is deadlocked in a struggle to compromise between Republican budget cuts that amount to one week of federal spending, and Democrat cuts that equal one day.
The price of oil is rocketing up as the Middle East burns. The brutal dictator Moammar Qaddafi, who our government declared must abandon his throne and flee into exile before finding himself strangled by a “tightening noose,” has all but defeated his rebellious population. His forces have flattened cities and butchered thousands. When his power is once again secure, he’s not likely to have fond memories of all that “tightening noose” talk.
The streets of America boil with chaos, as public employee unions stop at nothing to preserve their privileges at the expense of taxpayers. Only a few weeks ago, our media was convulsed with anguish over “aggressive” language about “targeting” representatives in political campaigns, and the use of bulls-eye symbols on electoral maps. Now the air is filled with outright death threats against representatives who don’t toe the union line.
And where is the President during all this? As Jim Geraghty of National Review explains, he’s going to make his college basketball picks today. Then he’ll tape some interviews about fixing the “No Child Left Behind” program. His previous public appearances were concerned with the towering menace of bullying in schools, and lecturing us on the wonders of public employee unions. And, of course, he can be found on the golf course, enjoying lavish parties with big celebrities at the White House, and raising money for his re-election campaign.
A great deal of leadership is a matter of perception. The public sees a panicked and indecisive President, who literally has no idea of how to cope with any of the crises facing him. He shows up to cut the ribbon on every new public debate, then runs away when the picks and shovels are handed out. His objective is to transform the American people, not serve their interests. He is interested in power, and seems completely flabbergasted by the notion of responsibility.
This flaw was highly visible during the aftermath of the Tucson shooting. Obama clearly understands the symbolic power of the presidency, as he invested much effort in hyping the big speech he gave at the memorial service. It became a major national event, and it was a nice enough speech… but he gave it several days too late. He could have spoken up much earlier, and put a stop to vile rhetoric from the Left that painted conservatives and the Tea Party as accessories to murder. Instead, he waited until the American cultural landscape was strewn with wreckage, then hopped up to the podium to admonish everyone to be calm and reasonable, just like him.
Obama’s abdication of global leadership has even been noted in the pages of the Washington Post, where columnist Richard Cohen marvels that “amazingly, the White House wants to wait on nearly everyone to do almost anything.” At the New York Times, David Brooks – once mesmerized by the sharp edges of the crease in Obama’s pants – now writes that “his worrying flaw is passivity,” noting that “Americans do have an expectation that their president will be the one out front, dominating the agenda, projecting strength and offering vision.”
You can tell the Left is getting nervous about this milk-carton president, because they don’t compare him to Mr. Spock any more. We’re far past the point where his inactivity can be portrayed as the calm deliberation of a vast intellect arriving at careful decisions. If Obama’s current behavior had been portrayed in a 2009 parody skit – sitting in the Oval Office and making college basketball picks while the world explodes outside his windows – it would have been denounced as an outrage. Now he’s beyond parody.
We got a taste of the real Barack Obama at the end of last year, when he handed a high-pressure press conference off to an astonished Bill Clinton, and raced off to attend a Christmas party. Everything he has done since then is consistent with the appalling lack of leadership he demonstrated in that moment. Obama never came back from his Christmas party.