We pundits like to analyze our presidents and so, as Barack Obama deals with difficult problems ranging from health care legislation to upheaval in Iran, let me offer my Three Rules of Obama.
First, Obama likes to execute long-range strategies but suffers from cognitive dissonance when new facts render them inappropriate. His 2008 campaign was a largely flawless execution of a smart strategy, but he was flummoxed momentarily when the Russians invaded Georgia and when John McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. On domestic policy, he has been executing his long-range strategy of vastly expanding government, but may be encountering problems as voters show unease at huge increases in spending.
His long-range strategy of propitiating America's enemies has been undercut by North Korea's missile launches and demonstrations in Iran against the mullah regime's apparent election fraud. His assumption that friendly words could melt the hearts of Kim Jong Il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have been refuted by events. He limits himself to expressing "deep concern" about the election in the almost surely vain hope of persuading the mullahs to abandon their drive for nuclear weapons, while he misses his chance to encourage the one result -- regime change -- that could protect us and our allies from Iranian attack.
Second, he does not seem to care much about the details of policy. He subcontracted the stimulus package to congressional appropriators, the cap-and-trade legislation to Reps. Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, and his health care program to Sen. Max Baucus. The result is incoherent public policy: indefensible pork barrel projects, a carbon emissions bill that doesn't limit carbon emissions from politically connected industries and a health care program priced by the Congressional Budget Office at a fiscally unfeasible $1,600,000,000,000.
He quickly announced the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay and now finds his administration begging the likes of Palau and Bermuda to take a few detainees off its hands. His acceptance of Arabist insistence that all problems in the Middle East can be solved by getting an Israeli-Palestinian settlement has put us in the absurd position of pressuring Israel not to expand settlements by a single square meter but pledging not to "meddle" in Iran.
Third, he does business Chicago-style. His first political ambition was to be mayor of Chicago, the boss of all he surveyed; he has had to settle for the broader but less complete hegemony of the presidency.