History judges a leader exclusively through his actions and their ultimate results rather than through fleeting words. It appears that U.S. President Barack Obama is finally putting the brakes on his mouth after flooring it down Hope-and-Change Highway for most of his tenure.
Remember the Syrian crisis that dominated chatter for months before all but vanishing? Recall how critics were talking about grievous incompetence and even possible impeachment? Fast-forward to today, and just try to start a conversation with, "Obama really botched the situation in Syria." Now that the Russians have overseen a plan for the destruction of that country's chemical arsenal and reeled in its leader, to what "botched" Syria situation would this even refer?
History records plane crashes, not turbulence -- although those on the flight itself might chatter about it. And therein lies the problem: the increasing disconnect between reality and the virtual world as people become more engrossed with social media and its real-time nature. Far too many observers are obsessed with second-by-second minutiae and the slightest twitches. The leader of a nation isn't tethered by social media or news feeds, nor should he be. In fact, that would make him unfit for leadership.
As a leader, you set the narrative, and that means not responding to people with their own agendas -- much like football players don't spend the game yelling into the stands at the fans of the opposing team. Arguably no recent American president understood this better than George W. Bush. It could be that Obama is now starting to get it, too.
Whether one agrees with him or not, Obama has been working to push through major reforms in areas ranging from health care to immigration to gun-control legislation. For all of its flaws, Obamacare is the most ambitious social safety net to be introduced in America in decades. A dramatic overhaul of immigration laws is likely to follow.
Presidents have a tactical decision to make: Either they can keep talking and painstakingly explaining their choices (as former U.S. President Bill Clinton was famous for doing throughout the turbulence of his mandate), or they can rhetorically retreat and let actions and outcomes speak for themselves. Bush was a fan of the action-over-rhetoric strategy, having all but eliminated any defensive communications efforts and preferring to let history write itself.