There are no easy answers to the raft of serious problems the country faces. The Post notes: “Europe found itself in the firing line of financial markets and world leaders on Monday, with election results in near-bankrupt Greece failing to quell mounting fears about the region’s financial stability. At the Group of 20 summit of major economies, taking place in Mexico, international pressure was building on Europe’s leaders to take bolder action to save the euro amid fresh signs that investors are losing faith in the far larger economies of Spain and Italy.”
In Egypt, the facade of democratic progress began to melt away. Elsewhere, President Obama, in an embarrassing display of impotence, was left trying to sweet talk Vladimir Putin into taking action in Syria. (“President Obama on Monday pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to join the United States and its allies in a campaign to force Syria’s ruling party out of power, as a means to end 15 months of escalating bloodshed.”) Good luck with that.
At home, Obama is bereft of ideas for helping to revive the economy. Instead he whines about Congress refusing to pass mini-proposals (Hire teachers!) and uses a series of decoys (the latest is the Dream Act) to draw attention away from his glaring failure to jump-start the recovery.
Obama no longer is the master of his fate. He has complained so much and done so little that he has essentially run out of time to show dramatic improvement in the economy, to revive the aura of bipartisan unity on which he based his 2008 campaign and to demonstrate he can work with Congress. It seems no one — not Iran, not Russia, not Syria, not Wisconsin voters, and not even the media, which bubble-wrapped him in favorable coverage for so long — wants to cooperate with him. In short, he has lost the ability to lead.
Obama has been convinced that his mere presence (in the Middle East “peace process”), his un-Bushism and, most of all, his oratory were enough to carry the day. But his rhetoric (even before it became repetitive and dull) is not sufficient to tackle the substantive problems we face. That requires creative policy, collaboration with the other party, and abandoning nostrums (“the international community,” being the worst of them) that have proved over and over again to be ineffective.
Aside from the economy and a series of brewing international storms, Obama’s real problems are two-fold. First, as my colleague Dana Milbank observes, the left is intellectually bankrupt and demoralized. (“The failed gubernatorial recall election in Wisconsin showed that momentum is against Democrats and their allies, and the still-lumbering economy has depressed President Obama’s supporters.”) And when Obama goes for his rhetorical blanket — the “big speech” — he further depresses his troops.
Second, he is temperamentally unsuited to deal with domestic problems that require a high degree of flexibility and ego-control (i.e. letting the other side “win” some). On the international front he lacks the ability to inspire respect.
The result is the biggest outsourcing since call centers fled the United States. Russia will handle Syria. Israel will deal with Iran. Congress is supposed to rescue the economy by sending him another chunk of pork. No wonder he plays so much golf — he’s not doing anything (except campaigning, of course).
Mitt Romney has talked in general terms about “leadership,” pointing to his past successes. But he’d be wise to explain how he worked with Democrats in Massachusetts, how he earned his “sterling” reputation in business and how he’s going to restore American influence in world. Obama talks and leaves practically everything (except partisan brawling) to someone else. Romney should explain how he has achieved success. It’s elementary to Romney, but it would be smart to let the American people in on how effective leadership operates (e.g., minimize the yes men, master the facts, avoid overexposure, curtail ideological or strategic rigidity, don't demonize the opposition). Or, as Romney has said in other contexts, look at Obama and do the opposite.