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Right Turn
Posted at 08:30 AM ET, 03/28/2011

Friday question answered

On Friday I asked what the president's motivation was for invisibility on everything from entitlement reform to Libya and if the domestic or foreign consequences would be more severe.

Aside from those on the left who don’t think there’s anything wrong with Obama’s performance, readers’ answers fell into several sorts of explanations. Some readers argued that this reflects Obama’s limited interest in and ability to govern. Larry 3435 wrote:

If President not-Bush never tells us what the goal is, he can pull out whenever it gets tough, and nobody can accuse him of failing to achieve the goal. If he asked for congressional authorization, he would have to tell Congress what the goal is, so that’s out. And if he doesn’t say anything, nobody can accuse him of “Obama lied, people died.” Maybe.

Besides, he likes being the queen much more than being prime minister. All that messy governing stuff gets in the way of the speechifying. And you have to, you know, think.

Other readers thought this is part of a campaign strategy. Sold2u writes:

He’s playing not to lose (as opposed to playing to win). He sees the economy getting better and a weak Republican class of opponents; I’m sure in his mind, all he has to do is not make a mistake. The Libyan situation allows him to establish his national security bona fides, and if he can hand it off to the Europeans, it will keep the Left at bay. Free-trade agreements are a no-win — it will tick off the unions and the Republicans won’t give him credit for it anyway. With entitlement reform, he believes whoever moves first, loses.

And yet a third group thought this phenomenon, at least on foreign policy, reflects the president’s world view. Ralterb wrote:

Well, on foreign policy it is essential for him to reduce U.S. influence abroad, since the U.S. is supposedly an imperialist, arrogant power that should instead take its proper place amongst every other nation, i.e., have about as much influence as say, Portugal.

Now these explanations are not mutually exclusive. Far from it. When presented with a crisis that most presidents (whether Democratic of Republican) would use as an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, Obama tends to recede (e.g., the aftermath of the Christmas Day 2009 bombing attempt) or flounder (e.g., the Gulf oil spill). As time gets closer to the election, his election advisers may find invisibility preferable. And if it’s foreign policy, why, Obama is easily persuaded to be as unassertive as possible without causing a national security calamity. Put differently, we should hardly expect anything different from Obama in this circumstance.

By  |  08:30 AM ET, 03/28/2011

 
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