Obama Finding Out that Nice Guys Finish Last

With the world buckling under economic pressures and the bad news seemingly flowing without end, many of us are beginning to wonder where exactly our president has gone.  

In 2008, President Barack Obama campaigned on a message of hope. It was an uplifting message delivered by an articulate speaker that motivated a nation desperate for change from a decade of war and reckless spending.

After winning his first caucus in Iowa, Obama addressed the jubilant crowd, declaring that “We are choosing hope over fear.” Now, after ceding confrontation after confrontation to his opposition without so much as an explanation, Obama seems to have relegated himself to an almost Stockholm Syndrome-like state.

Instead of taking his opposition to task for their naked refusal to engage in reasonable debate or propose anything resembling compromise, the president has forfeited his priorities in the name of “compromise.” Wholesale surrender is not much of a compromise.

In the debates on the budget and the debt ceiling, Obama demanded a “balanced” approach and eventually folded like a napkin, delivering to the Republicans an extension of the Bush tax cuts and slashed spending with no enhanced revenues.

Anyone paying attention to the conversation in Washington could see that it was the Tea Party minority in the House that was perfectly willing to watch the American economy burn to the ground if they did not get their way. Even with such blatant partisan rigidity, Obama refused to take Republicans to task for their childish and reckless behavior. Instead, the president came out and declared the signed debt deal an example of “leaders of both parties [finding] their way toward compromise.” Except that it wasn’t. It was, as Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) put it, 98% of what he and the Republicans wanted, and it was achieved by holding the integrity of our debt hostage.

This is not to say I want the president to take a page out of the Tea Party book and refuse to do anything other than tune the fiddle and light the fires unless all demands are met. But good lord, I sure would love to see the president stand up for something.

For all his faults, at least President George W. Bush stood up and argued his case. He and his party may have paid for some of their positions (and rightfully so), but they stood up and fought the fight they promised to fight. Obama refuses to even bring his gloves up while the other side throws haymaker after haymaker.

“We just wish he’d be more of a fighter,” said one Democrat to The New York Times. This sentiment seems to be a growing majority in the party and amongst the public.

Obama’s failure to rally the public by pronounced leadership stems from a combination of his inability to show strength in negotiation or success in policy. Professor Drew Weston distilled the feeling of most Americans in his Aug. 6 New York Times op-ed by stating that “I have no idea what Barack Obama – and by extension the party he leads – believes on virtually any issue.”

If he hopes to help carry the United States out of this recession and mobilize his base going into 2012, he will have to roll up his sleeves and take to the bully pulpit sooner rather than later and prove he’s willing to fight for what he claims to believe in.

Photo Credit: Jamesomalley

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Mark Kogan

Mark is a lawyer and Mic contributor living in Washington, D.C.

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