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Can a president lead with Woodward watching?

We all want a thoughtful president. As few Democrats tire of reminding us, America and the world have had quite enough of cowboys. But surely we can discard the caricatures and settle on a thoughtful commander who is neither a gunslinger nor a chalk-dusted harrumpher. Surely the twain can meet.

The Woodward Syndrome, meanwhile, presents a dilemma for all presidents. By his presence, events are affected. By our knowledge of what he witnesses, even as history is being created in real time, we can also affect these same events. Is it fair to Obama to critique him as he navigates his own thoughts? Or are we interfering with outcomes by inserting ourselves into conversations to which we were never supposed to be privy?

It's a conundrum unlikely to be resolved. If anything, in our tell-all, see-all political culture, no struggle will go unrecorded or un-critiqued. The need for strong leadership is, therefore, all the more necessary.

There's a saying that seems applicable here: Work like you don't need money, love like you're never been hurt, dance like no one's watching.

Note to President Obama: Lead like there's no tomorrow. No midterm election, no presidential reelection, no party base. Liberate yourself from the Woodward Syndrome, figure out what you think, and lead.

You are commander in chief, after all. Half the country may disagree with you, but they'll respect you in the morning.

kathleenparker@washpost.com


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