Diagnosing Obama’s Failure to Lead

Distressed by George W. Bush, even those of us who try to resist psychobabble eventually succumbed to seeing him as a reformed drunk who had found God and was punishing the nation with his uncomprehending new-found piety.

Now Drew Westen, a practicing psychologist and political consultant, offers a diagnosis of Barack Obama that, in all fairness, deserves similar consideration–of how he took office in a frightening time when Americans “needed their president to tell them a story that made sense of what they had just been through, what caused it, and how it was going to end. They needed to hear that he understood what they were feeling, that he would track down those responsible for their pain and suffering, and that he would restore order and safety.

“And perhaps most important, it would have offered a clear, compelling alternative to the dominant narrative of the right…that those who can afford to buy influence are rewriting the rules so they can cut themselves progressively larger slices of the American pie while paying less of their fair share for it.

“That story would have made clear that the president understood that the American people had given Democrats the presidency and majorities in both houses of Congress to fix the mess the Republicans and Wall Street had made of the country, and that this would not be a power-sharing arrangement. It would have made clear that the problem wasn’t tax-and-spend liberalism or the deficit–a deficit that didn’t exist until George W. Bush gave nearly $2 trillion in tax breaks largely to the wealthiest Americans and squandered $1 trillion in two wars.

“But there was no story–and there has been none since.”

If that sounds like an unrealistic alternate history, it nonetheless brings into focus a picture of the Barack Obama that millions hoped for but who never came forward.

Instead, we got a more intelligent but equally misguided version of Bush’s vision of himself as a Uniter in a time that cried out for another FDR to fight against the forces that had brought the nation to the brink of economic ruin.

MORE.

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Author: ROBERT STEIN

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    Somehow, it sounds more like a standard marriage. We marry the fantasy we’ve built up in our minds, but end up with the person that we were dating.

    FDR ran “against the banks”, a goal that he fulfilled in Glass-Steagall. Obama didn’t.

  • dduck

    Calling Dr. Freud. Please analyze this long piece.

    Where to start? Foremost, this is from a very disgruntled/disappointed democratic “consultant”, his words. So, we need to filter a little. Yeah, if only daddy was a better story teller, we would have understood what he tried to do.
    One, of my favorite excerpts from this piece, and there were a few good ones, was this:
    “that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted “present” (instead of “yea” or “nay”) 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues”

    Doc, you are pissed because you were wrong in hiring this guy.

  • JSpencer

    Right on the Mark Robert. Of course people hear what they want to hear, and while the political right is happy to see liberal disappointment with Obama, they don’t grasp the why of it – but no matter, if he loses polling points it’s all good.

    “But Barack Obama’s problem has less to do with left, right and center than with his psychological resistance to taking on that role of warrior against political and economic madness.”

    Exactly right. This is a time for courage and conviction, not waltzing around trying to please people who can never be pleased.

  • DaGoat

    JSpencer you make good points and I agree there is Schadenfreude coming from the right, but looking at this as a non-liberal I have to agree with dduck. Why are people surprised that Obama is not a warrior or a leader when he had never shown any capacity for either? His career has been what amounts to one long campaign.

  • dduck

    Besides the schadenfreude, I am pissed at Obama not as a Rep/whatever, but as a citizen. Here is an intelligent personable guy that I was hoping (true), would improve on the job. I really wish it, because switching to a new horse in these unprecedentedly perilous times has its own dangers. I’m not sure that the Reps have the right (correct) solutions and a new guy has a steep learning curve also.
    Currently, as this unbiased article points out- better than I can, there is little to no improvement. Of course, the Reps are fighting him tooth and nail, just as the Dems did with BushII; that’s to be expected. But he “could do better”, as I used to get commented on my Report Card.

  • Absalon

    Congressional democrats are not like congressional republicans – they are not monolithic slaves to the president. That, and Obama began with an economic disaster and lots of overdue problems piling up.

    Add to this that the GOP has gone insane and everyone between democrats and republicans are empty weathervanes and intellectual/moral chaff, and you realize he’s done pretty good given the context.

    On healthcare and the debt ceiling, he was too reluctant to actually explain what was going on. He didn’t want to tell Americans what to think, and republicans did that instead.

  • DLS

    He’s going back on the campaign already, which devalues him more.

  • Absalon

    You republicans keep whining about how he is constantly campaigning or somesuch. It has never not been infantile.

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    “Congressional democrats are not like congressional republicans – they are not monolithic slaves to the president”
    The freshmen don’t seem to be good slaves to their masters either. It’s funny that I’ve never read your praise for them.

  • Allen

    Yes but who would have guessed that the Republicans would have turned as ruthless has they have? With the Bush tax cuts, the greatest transfer of wealth in American history occurred, and, it was a transfer from the larger population directly to the wealthy. What good did it do us? Nothing, in fact it may have destroyed us. After receiving this wealth, it is clear that these wealthy, through the republican party intend on keeping “our” money until hell freezes over. They deploy every dirty deed and backstabbing tactic against the President. They openly state that their only goal is to “get President Obama out of office”.

    The President is Leading. You whom voted for him need to follow and stop your whining.

  • JSpencer

    DaGoat and dduck. Points taken. I’m more than ready for someone who can walk the walk.

  • Allen

    Duck

    Duck you are just going to get more Bush style destruction of the economy with Tiffany’s being the only business making money. What do you want the President to do, throw a tissy fit on national television? I think not.

  • dduck

    The choice is rehabilitating the one we know-Obama, or the one who can walk the walk. WTF is that? Hint: that person wears pant suits. Please name some others, cause I don’t see anyone else.

  • dduck

    Allen, I’m tired of a president trying to be popular and well liked by all. I want an ugly unlikeable SOB like LBJ or Nixon to get things DONE.

  • Allen

    It’s interesting to note that Franklin Roosevelt raised taxes during the depression and even instituted Social Security payroll deductions during the depression. Yet he still brought us out of the depression!

    It’s time to raise taxes.

  • Allen

    Duck-

    Duck you have a misconception. The president MUST remain popular to get anything done in a divided house.

    If you turn against President Obama now, you are simply going to get a Republican President next year. You will be crying I can guarantee it. Furthermore, you know it.

  • LOGAN PENZA

    World War II brought us out of the Depression, not President Roosevelt. President Roosevelt took office in 1933, and the Depression continued and worsened until the onset of WWII nearly 9 years later.

    If you want to prove that raising taxes will cause economic growth, let’s see a real cause-and-effect argument, please, rather than a factually wrong correlation argument.

  • dduck

    You’re wrong I don’t want a Rep president, I want an effective one.

  • LOGAN PENZA

    Ah, but Duck, you committed the thought crime of criticizing a Democrat. That automatically means you are far-right. :)

  • dduck

    If the quack resonates I’ll hear it.

  • Absalon

    “Ah, but Duck, you committed the thought crime of criticizing a Democrat. That automatically means you are far-right.”

    Oh satan. That’s you speaking, isn’t it? I just saw a glimpse of the world YOU honestly live in, right?

    “If you want to prove that raising taxes will cause economic growth, let’s see a real cause-and-effect argument”

    It’s not about tax levels but about taxes and spending reaching parity.

    And the problem is democrats have no reason to care about your concerns about spending until letting tax cuts expire isn’t met with screaming, and people like you are going to sulk until you get your reform and stuff.

    I am not sure whether people who want pre-New Deal America are supposed to have any say in entitlement “reform” but whatever.

    Nevertheless, the foremost representative of the democrats offered a lot of concessions that people you dislike hated strongly, while republicans en masse yould not meet that with any tax increases. So you are still part of the problem, not the solution.

    The main problem is you equivocate between those who have ideas and opinions about taxes, spending and welfare that are based on the physical world with people who have metaphysical ideas and opinions about the same subjects. .

  • DLS

    True — World War II brought us out of the Great Depression, not the New Deal (which many can say with the facts to support them made things not better, but worse, and obviously didn’t end the Depression).

    Hopefully the Krappy Krugmans (and Krugman fans) won’t someday admit that, but proceed to doing the worst: insisting it was wartime inflation alone that brought us out of the Depression, and that that’s what we “need” [sic] now.

  • DLS

    Also, Allen, in addition to being obviously wrong about the New Deal, you’re wrong about Obama’s campaigning and the proper criticism of it. Don’t lie about the nature or motives of criticism.

  • DLS

    D. Duck: I doubt Hillary Clinton would have made the mistakes Obama has. She at least would be, with her staff, in touch with the real world, not restricted to the “inner circle,” and wouldn’t be playing so often at the job!

  • Allen

    Duck

    You will never have an effective President, or, any effective government at all, until the Tea baggers are exposed fore the evil that they are and run out of office.

    Certainly you realized this?

  • Allen

    DLS-

    lol

    I’m not wrong. Furthermore You are simply a propagandist for the tea party.

  • Allen

    I like the way DLS is saying that creating massive debt and massive spending brought us our of the Depression.

    It Did.

    Thanks DLS, I knew you could face the truth one day. I’m proud of you.

  • DLS

    Well, maybe you’ll climb up and out of the spot you’ve made, Allen.

    Maybe, some day, sometime. There’s always Hope [tm] for needed Change [tm].

  • JSpencer

    Logan, does your partisan history also downplay FDR’s leadership as Commander in Chief during WWII? I’m only mildly curious since there is very little you could say at this point that would surprise me. I’d gladly trade any of the pretenders we’ve had for presidents over the past few decades for an FDR. Talk is cheap and we’ve seen plenty of that, especially this century.

  • DLS

    A serious FDR nowadays wouldn’t be a federal-growth and revolutionary FDR like we had in the 1930s, but would radically impose long-needed reforms and reductions of Washington.

    It’s not the 1930s or 1960s — nobody sane wants a repetition of something that can’t be repeated, anyway.

  • LOGAN PENZA

    JSpencer, not at all. I just do not think that there is any evidence that the Commander in Chief role in WWII can be given a partisan glow where the personal or partisan characteristics of the President can be said to be the CAUSE of World War II, victory in that war, or the economic effects of that war.

    Also, the original claim that I was rebutting was that FDR’s tax increases CAUSED the end of the Great Depression. I think there is no evidence for that claim. Certainly, none has yet been offered here.

  • JSpencer

    OK, I think I get it now. Partisan glow is a no no, but partisan blame is OK. As for the Great Depression, I shudder to think how that would have turned out if one of today’s TP folks had been prez during that time.

  • LOGAN PENZA

    JSpencer,
    As usual, your rephrasing only serves to distort what other people said before and change the subject. Nice try, though.

  • JSpencer

    Logan 9 times out of 10 what you refer to as my “rephrasing” is nothing more than me holding up a mirror – which you usually don’t like (see, there is still hope!. If this is the 1 out of 10, feel free to apply it as credit to either of your next two posts. Think of it as a get out of jail free card. ;-)

  • http://wideeyedandreal.blogspot.com ProfElwood

    It’s funny when Keynesians point to FDR and WW II as proof of the effectiveness of stimulus. The New Deal didn’t work, but WW II did. WW II had stiff rationing and wage limits. The name for those policies: austerity.

  • JSpencer

    Gotta laugh at the idea of conservatives considering “rationing” or conservation. Next thing you know they’ll be talking about good environmental stewardship. Just amazing..

  • Allen

    You don’t have to make a deal with the capitalists to get the economy rolling. You need to investigate them and ferret out every evil disgusting thing, expose them, humiliate them and then suck the life out of their vast bank accounts.

    Those that can weather the scrutiny, are Americans. These you can trust. Those that cannot, are terrorists to be dealt with harshly and publicly. I venture a guess that few will get away unscathed, ever the pessimist when it comes to business.

    The people must be protected by Power. That is why we have a President. No republican should ever be President, just as no Nazi, or, Communist.