Michael Barone

Obama chose a different course. He has held back on the free trade agreements and has put pressure on the other treaty partners to make further concessions. This propitiated his union allies and their Democratic sympathizers for a time.

But his State of the Union message call for doubling U.S. exports made it obvious that he would have to get Congress to approve the FTAs. How can you double exports if you refuse to advance measures that would open up markets to them?

Of course, now the unions and many Democrats are angry at him for not continuing to obstruct the free trade agreements. In the meantime, South Korea has been signing free trade agreements with the likes of Chile and the European Union. That gives European exporters a head start over Americans.

So Obama has left his allies angry and his critics unmollified. Sounds something like the opposite of strong leadership.

You can see a similar story unfolding on the issue of approval of the Keystone pipeline. This is a privately financed pipeline to transport oil from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to oil marketing facilities at Cushing, Okla.

Like the FTAs, it's a no-brainer. We get oil from friendly nearby Canada instead of the unstable distant Middle East. Some 20,000 jobs are created without a dime of government stimulus.

But environmental groups are griping about Canada's drilling methods and possible pipeline accidents, and the State Department, despite a clean environmental bill of health, has been stalling on providing the necessary approval.

But eventually it surely will. The enviros will be cross, and the new jobs that might help re-elect Obama won't be created until after the election.

Chris Christie has shown that confrontational leadership can get results and produce more admirers than detractors. Barack Obama has shown that lack of leadership leaves pretty much everyone dissatisfied.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM