President Obama, MIA
"Where's President Obama?" asked Paul Krugman in his Sunday New York Times column. "What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?"
Krugman acknowledges that with the Republicans controlling the House, Obama’s hands are tied. But, says Krugman, Obama can still reinforce his agenda by voicing it. He doesn’t have to be so quick to compromise; and in doing so, he's just setting himself up to be a pushover. "Among other things," Krugman laments, "the latest budget deal more than wipes out any positive economic effects of the big prize Mr. Obama supposedly won from last December’s deal, a temporary extension of his 2009 tax cuts for working Americans." He continues:
What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise.
But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing.
This reaction comes not just on the heels of Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal -- much-praised for taking a more aggressive approach than Obama’s plan — and near government shutdown; it also comes less than one week after Obama announced his reelection bid. Isn’t this a time he’d want to be seen in action?
Columnist Jonah Goldberg also commented on our missing president in last week’s Opinion pages:
If it weren't for [the need to raise money for his reelection campaign], Obama would be delighted to stay on the sidelines because his whole reelection strategy requires going on semi-hiatus from the presidency. That's why he's been AWOL on the budget battles. It's why he's completely ignored his own deficit commission, and it's why he's been saying as little as possible on foreign policy. It's also why, last week, he accepted an award for government "transparency" in secret.
The White House has learned the hard way that it overexposed its biggest asset during his first two years in office, using him for countless supposedly "game-changing" speeches that changed little or nothing. He gave the most press interviews in presidential history, according to CBS' Mark Knoller. In 2009, he had 411 public speeches, comments and remarks, and 491 in 2010. But in 2011, we have what Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus calls a "Where's Waldo presidency" where "you frequently have to squint to find the White House amid the larger landscape."
-- Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: Isn’t this a time when President Obama would want to be seen in action? Credit: Evan Vucci / Associated Press