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A LOST AND INEFFECTIVE LEADER
L. Bakke – August 4, 2011
Obama’s Running Commentary
The jury is out on the success or
failure of the debt and budget debate. I will address that at a later date. What
I am concerned with here is the running commentary Obama gave as the two houses
of Congress struggled with this very difficult task.
During the debate, Obama refused
to provide leadership by presenting DETAILED guidance of potential solutions to
the impasse they were facing. But that isn’t what I consider the worst of his
leadership transgressions. Rather here is my focus of concern:
In the middle of this debate he couldn’t set
aside his natural tendencies to talk down our country and provide divisive
negative comments and demagoguery.
He emphasized and reemphasized how the country
is in such bad shape solely because of (guess who?) George W.
He tried to heighten the crisis by scaring the
markets and debt holders by stating inaccurately what would happen if an
increase in the debt ceiling were delayed.
He attempted to scare retired Americans and our
military by stating he couldn’t guarantee their priority for getting paid.
He pounded on the “hated” “fat-cats – those
greedy millionaires and billionaires.”
He repeatedly, and most unhelpfully, publicly
ridiculed congressional leadership – particularly the republicans – but
actually the democrats as well.
Scare tactics, class warfare and
demagoguery are not the tactics of an effective leader. He lacks something I
want my president to possess – a reflexive and obvious pride in the United States.
Rather he is reflexively NOT interested in expressing the exceptionalism of the
What Was He Thinking and Why Does
He Do That?
What makes Obama that way? As I
wrote many months ago, we are all products of our training, education, and life
experiences. At that time I went on to research Obama’s life experiences and
positions he held. One significant activity was spending years involved, in
various ways, with community organizing in Chicago. It has been widely reported and
acknowledged that he spent time studying, and later training, community
organizers in the “Alinsky Method.” Saul Alinsky, the “godfather” of community organizing,
was a left wing activist and wrote the book “Rules for Radicals.” I purchased
an old copy, published approximately 40 years ago, and found it incredible. The
book is excellent and terribly frightening.
Apparently, one of Obama’s early
mentors in the “Alinsky Method” was Mike Kruglik who had this to say in an
interview with “The New Republic”: “He was a natural, the undisputed master of
agitation, who could engage a room full of recruiting targets in a rapid-fire
Socratic dialogue, nudging them to admit that they were not living up to their
own standards … he could be aggressive and confrontational … he would pinpoint
the source of pain in their lives, tearing down their egos just enough before dangling
a carrot of hope that they could make things better.”
So, what did Alinsky teach that
made sense to the young Obama and which influenced his “style” in dealing with
situations and governing? Let me repeat a few items here that I believe provide
insight into how Obama deals with others – particularly his constituents and
his opposition. Alinsky provided these as some of his rules and principles (see
if you recognize any similarities to Obama while reading this):
Goals must be phrased in general terms like “Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity,” “Of the Common Welfare,” “Pursuit of Happiness,” or “Bread and
If you push a negative hard enough and deep
enough it will break through into its counterside.
Pick the target, freeze
it, personalize it, and polarize it.
The opposition is the
enemy and they are 100% evil, without any redeeming features. To recognize any
good points of/from the opposition is a sign of weakness.
Here are some parallels I have
Some contend: that Obama and his
“disciples” believe in creating chaos or making sure that no crisis is
ever wasted. He has been accused of using false hyperbole and
misinformation to stir up the emotion
about an issue. Alinsky taught: “The first step in community organization is
community disorganization … No politician can sit on a hot issue if you make it
hot enough … In the beginning the organizer’s first job
is to create the issues or problems … What the organizer does is convert
the plight into a problem.”
Some contend: Obama’s own words
imploring his supporters argue and “get in the face” of critics, might just
indicate an unsavory characteristic or tactic favored by him. Alinsky
taught: “Change means movement. Movement means friction … abrasive
friction of conflict … The organizer’s job … [is] to
agitate, introduce ideas, get people pregnant with hope and a desire for change
… The organizer dedicated to organizing the life of a particular community must
first rub raw the resentments of the people … fan the
latent hostilities … stir up dissatisfaction …”
Some contend: the Obama presidency has
caused more polarization than at any other time. The Republicans and the “Tea
Party” are definitely “taking it on the chin” for this. Some feel that polarizing
the system is Obama’s intention. Alinsky taught: “Before men can act an issue must be polarized. Men
will act when they are convinced that their cause is 100 per cent on the side
of the angels and that the opposition are 100 per cent on the side of the devil
… [The organizer] knows that all ideas arise from conflict.”
Does this provide any insight?
Did you detect any similarities to Obama’s tactics and style?
What Should a True Leader Say?
Let’s get back to the topic of
Obama’s deficiencies during the recent “debt crisis.” What would a true leader have
said? A good leader would NOT talk down the U.S. economy and state concern that
bills might not be paid. He purposely and unnecessarily scared senior citizens.
He stoked the fires of class envy and class warfare. Here is what he should
“I want to speak
citizens about what’s going on in Congress. And I invite leaders and all people
of the world to listen in on this conversation.
What you are
witnessing is the painful process of deliberation set out by our founders when
matters of this magnitude are to be legislated. Since I became involved in
elected office at the state and federal level, I have come to better understand
what was referred to as the ‘great experiment’ – that is, our form of government.
It is painfully deliberative! Good people on both sides of the debate believe
their world view is the correct one.
Our system, by
design, makes it difficult to complete controversial and important legislation.
Let me assure you all that our economy is stretched but it won’t break and you
are witnessing the process we follow to get to the best possible answer – our
system demands that! We are coming close to a critical time in this debate, and
with important matters like these being considered in a divided congress, some
conflict is no surprise.
isn’t really about whether we can fulfill our obligations here and around the
world – we won’t disappoint you in that. The debate is about what should be our
economic policies and priorities going forward. We will ultimately get to the
best answer possible – but it won’t be easy – tough choices never are.
I, as chief
executive, have the authority to do what is necessary to set short term spending
priorities and to make sure there are no defaults on our national debt. So,
while I attend to my job, you all pay attention to this dynamic and exciting
place (albeit sometimes frustrating) which I am privileged to serve as
President – the United
States of America.”
That’s what a true leader would
have said – or something to that effect – those are just my words. But the
words Obama did speak truly indicate just how lost he is. He repeatedly talks down our country, its leaders, its
institutions, its traditions and his legitimate, committed opposition!