Dictating is Easy; Leading is Hard

Posted: Apr 16, 2011 12:01 AM

They were happier times. Headier times. President Barack Obama and his Democrats held strong majorities in both the House and Senate. Dreams of "fundamentally transforming the United States of America" were at hand.

Best of all, nobody could stop them, and they reveled in it. Look, they said, we can pass this yard-thick bill to take over healthcare -- without even reading it! What are you going to do? Think we should pass a budget bill this year? Think again! Worried about the national debt? Then watch this: WHOOSH!

Fun times, fun times. But they're over now. The American people responded as Americans do, the Tea Party movement arose, and when November came they flipped the House to the GOP and left the Democrats barely hanging onto control in the Senate. It was just enough change in the overall power structure to quell the hijinks.

And don't think the cutups aren't missing their capers. The president is especially glum. The American people -- and worse for him, his own party -- expect him to lead, a rather daunting prospect that includes convincing Republicans to follow. Becoming such a leader cuts strongly against his natural inclinations to vote "present" and say Republicans like to starve Grandma.

Obama took his self-pity public after surveying his present situation and comparing it with that of Hu Jintao. The New York Times reported last month that "Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China."

So much easier. Plus he'd hold the wicked awesome title of "Paramount Leader." How cool would that look on ESPN!

These Republicans, well, they might be inclined to some fun (how much gimmickry is in the continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown is up for debate), but just when a president starts to hope, the GOP brings out that wet blanket of a representative from Wisconsin with his serious long-term budget cutting proposal.

Sheesh. And "trillions" used to be such a fun word.

Now the president is heaving sighs for anonymity. "I just miss -- I miss being anonymous," he told Hearst Magazine executives in the White House State Dining Room. "I miss Saturday morning, rolling out of bed, not shaving, getting into my car with my girls, driving to the supermarket, squeezing the fruit, getting my car washed, taking walks. I can't take a walk." No one within earshot assumed he meant because he was tired of being thronged by grateful Americans tearfully thanking him for each and every newly uncovered Obamacare imposition.

Ironically -- for the first time since early '09, it seems -- the president has found something on which he and a majority of Americans agree. He'd like just to take a walk. They'd like to tell him to take a hike. Kum ba yah.

Obama's woe is shared by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She fretted before an audience at Tufts University that "elections shouldn't matter as much as they do." That's a steep step down for someone who once hailed the outcome of the 2006 midterm elections as a moment for which women have been waiting for over 200 years.

Vice President Joe Biden has been more sanguine about things. But then he likes to check out of the president's more blatantly demagogic speeches to visit the peaceful climes of Blinken and Nod.

Biden was lulled into just such a working vacation during Obama's vitriolic and alternative-free response to Rep. Paul Ryan's budget. The speech was remarkable for many things, though none of them reflect positively on Obama as a leader. As for the reason for the speech, the president who was hosanna'd into office on the promises of fundamental change was reduced to warning that Ryan's plan "would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we’ve known certainly in my lifetime."

Yes, the fun is over. Now he hopes we don't change.