It is really up to other people to proclaim national goals and nation purposes now – Marco Rubio is doing a fine job this week though there will be disagreements ahead about his legislative goals as well – and others will emerge from among governors and perhaps temporarily retired former secretaries of state.
But the president has lost it, choosing a week of terrible anguish and no little fear to divide the country rather than unify it and to chide an opposition rather than rally it to a common cause.
His failure is not singular. The GOP-led House of Representatives has sunk into a morass of the personal rule of Committee chairs that obstructs even the most obvious reforms such as the repeal of the jobs-destroying medical device tax. Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his chief deputy Kevin McCarthy seem to have adopted a wait-out-the-Speaker’s-last-two-years strategy and trust to the power of redistricting and the enmity engendered by an angry, divisive president to protect their majority through the travails of 2014.
That’s a bad bet. It is people like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul – people who are visibly leading and tackling real and difficult problems, often face-to-face with critics – and governors like Scott Walker and John Kasich who are grappling with hard choices who are winning the admiration of voters.
There are real leaders in the country. They just aren’t in power in D.C. Yet. Eric Cantor should be among them, leading and visibly calling for his colleagues to rally around hard things that need doing now. The country is hungry for people who will do just that.
It is good to remember that principled leadership – firm but never angry, articulate and passionate in defense of its beliefs but open to argument and persuasion – is genuinely charismatic and always necessary. It is important to remember that in a week when so many things and people failed, most obviously the president.
Catastrophe illumines suffering but also capacity and character, and their absence.