Maybe the attacks on President Barack Obama are too strong — not well thought through. Is it possible that he is a victim of something that neither we nor he understands? Or is he the complete example of what one social scientist called “the science of muddling through?”
Obama would certainly not be the first chief executive of the nation to move along haphazardly, waiting for something to happen, and then speaking loudly without a big, or small, stick to show either strength or weakness. Could this be a leadership style that is purposeful and reflective of the generation from which he came and of generations that will follow?
Is this lack of awkwardness or shame over taking credit for the risks undertaken by others — as in the overdue killing of master criminal Osama bin Laden — how we will define the leaders of the future?
The passivity of leaders goes against the American ideal. We see ourselves as activists at home and abroad. We create milestones for our presidents. We speak of their first 100 days, first terms, and we refer to the work they accomplish or do not accomplish as belonging to their presidency as though it was their singular possession.
We expect our presidents to be daring, purposeful, and direct. We seek Washington, Lincoln, and we hold those names in such esteem as definitions of courage and distinction. We want scholars whose daily lives are a statement, military leaders, and heroes. We want them to be handsome or when we elect a woman — attractive — with photogenic families that make them all so human.
We hold our presidents to the highest standards. And we have always wanted high-octane performance, often canceling the re-election of those who would do otherwise.
However, things have changed. Barack Obama is the new standard? The passive president whose challenges to others in the world are remarkably unheard and unheeded? A president presiding over a national economy that remains relatively flat with those most able to bear burdens profiting more as the stock market rises?
Barack Obama is the result of more than 60 years of professional political consulting. He is the president who will be remembered for muddling through while the world around us changes with unstoppable speed.
He is not leading us through the twirling globalized economy. He is overtaken by world events and he appears to have allowed the Russians to shape the policy discussion in such a way that they too will tire of the burden as this great nation has done.
If the passive president is our future, and if history repeats itself, danger lies ahead. And in the light-speed-changing globalized world where a single button can end the lives of millions, wandering through the corridors of history and barking at a world that no longer listens to anything but the sounds of cash being counted is not the kind of legacy most of our presidents would have wanted. But it is the one Barack Obama has earned.
Hank Sheinkopf is an early creator of integrated strategic campaigns using all forms of media and has won national and international awards for his radio and TV productions. He is a veteran of more than 700 political, public policy, and public relations campaigns around the world. Read more reports from Hank Sheinkopf — Click Here Now.
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