Obama's Leadership Vacuum
More than two years ago, then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton launched a campaign ad that took direct aim at Senator Barack Obama's inexperience. It painted the picture of a telephone ringing in the White House at 3 a.m. and asked the question, when there is a crisis in the world and your children are safe and asleep, "Who do you want answering the phone?"
Now, two years later, there are several crises confronting America, that telephone is ringing, and President Obama isn't quite sure what to do about it.
The first crisis is the War in Afghanistan, a lynchpin in the War on Terror and a key to ensuring U.S. security. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, reportedly tendered his resignation yesterday following a Rolling Stone article that portrayed him and senior aides on his team as dismissive of top Obama administration officials. Apart for being an embarrassing moment for both President Obama and Gen. McChrystal, the story revealed a larger problem for the president - festering, internal dissension regarding his administration's Afghanistan strategy. As Politico reports, there are divisions among Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Vice President Biden, Gen. David Petraeus, Richard Holbrooke and others.
Those divisions are of Obama's own making, stemming from his lack of leadership and failure to make a firm commitment to victory in Afghanistan. It took the president 10 months to decide on an Afghanistan strategy, he took a middle road in only committing 30,000 additional troops to the mission, many fewer than Gen. McChrystal had requested, and he imposed an artificial timeline for withdrawal that sent mixed signals to the country, the military, our allies and our enemies about America's resolve to win the war. Now, as the president contemplates Gen. McChrystal's potential resignation, it appears he is reaping the bitter harvest of his failure to take decisive action.
There's another crisis spewing from deep in the Gulf of Mexico, where the environmental and economic repercussions of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill continue to spread, 64 days later. Even after President Obama addressed the nation on the government's oil spill response, 59 percent of Americans do not believe he has a clear plan for tackling the crisis.
Is it any wonder? Yesterday, a federal judge struck down the president's six-month ban on oil drilling, concluding that plaintiffs likely could show "the Administration acted arbitrarily and capriciously in issuing the moratorium."
The ruling followed protests from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and 19 Gulf lawmakers, including Democrat Rep. Charlie Melancon (LA), who complained that the ban would pile on even more economic hardship to the embattled Gulf region. Despite the ruling, the protests, the economic consequences, and a poll showing that 56 percent of Americans believe offshore drilling is necessary for U.S. energy security, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says he will issue a new order re-imposing the moratorium on deepwater drilling.
The Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky writes that the ban is just one example of the Obama administration's oil spill failures:
From the unjustified 24-hour ban imposed by the Coast Guard on the barges that were pumping oil out of the water to check on whether they had fire extinguishers and life vests on board to the Army Corps of Engineers' delays in allowing Louisiana to build berms and sand barriers to protect its wetlands, the administration has acted more like the Keystone Cops than a competent and effective government.
And then there's the budget. President Obama's administration has been marked by a spend-now, cut-later (or never) mantra that has featured the largest single-year increase in domestic spending since World War II and a trillion-dollar health care plan. Recognizing that all that spending might cause a public relations problem, the president appointed the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to study ways to improve America's fiscal future. Why make a decision when others can do it for you?
Taking a cue from their leader, House Democrats announced yesterday that they won't pass a budget this year. Even though that's never been done in the history of the modern budgetary process, they want to wait until the president's commission issues its report in December before making any moves.
Following President Obama's Oval Office address on the oil spill last week, MSNBC commentators Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and Howard Fineman, three of the president's most ardent media cheerleaders, roundly criticized the president's speech. Fineman said, "Obama should be acting like a 'commander-in-chief.'" Olbermann complained the president "wasn't specific enough." Matthews observed, "I don't sense executive command." Each of those observations comes down to one thing: leadership. And these days, the man picking up the White House phone at 3 a.m. doesn't seem to have it.
Reprinted with permission from The Heritage Foundation
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