Perhaps the president has not been tactical and clever in the various different facets of his views that he has shown us: "I am a prisoner of my own biography. ..." If one reads his words that he is "forever mindful of how generations of people who looked like me were subjugated and stigmatized," and his words a few paragraphs down, where he wonders, "How I, or anybody in public office, can avoid the pitfalls of fame, the hunger to please, the fear of loss" -- one can't help wondering whether his "hunger to please" is in perpetual, inconclusive battle with his innermost visions and judgments.
Of course, we are all a bundle of contradictions, and we all grapple with the tension between pleasing others and being true to ourselves. And Mr. Obama is to be commended for writing with such searing honesty just a year before he started his run for the presidency.
But all of the foregoing would be merely obscure marginalia to the main text of his presidency if, in his first year in office, he had executed his responsibilities with a firm steadiness of purpose. He would not be in the fix he is in now if he had so comported himself that his strong supporter Mr. Herbert (and many other of his cheerleaders) had not felt compelled to rudely question his credibility and wondered out loud who Mr. Obama is.
If the president is to save his presidency from a fatal weakening, he needs promptly to work through his inner dialogue and resolve the contesting urge to be loved with the urge to be true to himself -- in favor of the latter. His State of the Union speech reflected too much of the former.
He could do with a little less public love and a lot more public respect. Take some stands and stick with them. If he thinks we need more deficit spending to stimulate the economy, he shouldn't trot out rhetoric and faux policies in support of deficit reduction. He thereby neither gained the support of fiscal conservatives nor kept the favor of those for more deficits. (See Paul Krugman's brutal New York Times column in which he called the president not a true deficit hawk, but a "deficit peacock," a term he borrowed from an article published by the Center for American Progress) because, as the CAP article said, he "pretend(s) that our budget problems can be solved with gimmicks like a temporary freeze."
If he truly believes he cannot get the health care legislation he wants, he should tell his allies (House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in particular) to drop it, now. Give his allies on the Hill firm priorities and guidance. He should not continue to hint at cap-and-trade if he knows it can't happen in 2010. He may disappoint the Greens but gain their respect for his firm leadership.
Whether he wants to "stay the course" or "pivot to the center," the president has the next six months to steadily and unambiguously execute that vision. If he fails to right his image by then -- it will be post-Katrina time for yet another president.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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