President Obama is a surprise to almost everyone. From his emotionally charged dynamic election speeches to his staggering military assault on terrorist supporters in Afghanistan – Barack Obama has proven that he can and will make tough decisions. His decisions are not based on emotion, not based on Democratic Party platforms, and not based on the perceived ideology of socialism and dictatorial government. President Obama is a surprise to almost everyone.
President Obama was elected on the platform of change. The hope was a change in the way Washington does politics, a change in the philosophy of health care, a change in the philosophy of war, a change in the government’s attitude toward the environment. and a change in the philosophy of foreign relations. Well, we have change – but it is not exactly what everyone expected.
The Republicans are flustered. President Obama has proven to be a pragmatic politician – a man who wants to get the job done. The Health Care bill passed without GOP support – this may not have been the outcome hoped for by the President – but when push came to shove – Obama shoved. The GOP held fast in their resistance believing that Obama would endorse a socialist government health care program – instead the President found a compromise with the private sector insurance companies. The insurance companies can cut premiums by insuring a broader base of members. The insurance companies continue to make money and more people are insured – a cold calculated outcome.
President Obama was given the Nobel Peace Price for changing the world dialogue on war. Then he sent another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. The President consulted with his military brass – brought compromise on troop levels and withdrawal dates, with defined goals and measurements of success – then made his decision. Cold blooded. Calculated. Resolute. We can expect that whatever the military success in Afghanistan the President will make similar cold blooded decisions in response.
The economy tanked, banks were going out of business, General Motors was collapsing, millions of jobs were threatened. The President engineered a Government financed retooling of the fundamentals of our economy. At first charged again with socialist totalitarianism (whatever that is) The President has enjoyed the return to profits by the banks and GM. Job loss per month has been changed to job gains per month. Many remain unemployed but the trend is in Obama’s favor. These economic changes were not the result of emotional pressure, nor were they the result of political expediency – the decisive changes were calculated under the umbrella of superior financial minds.
Israel has been a blessing and a burden to American politicians since Harry Truman recognized the sovereign state in 1948. The blessing comes in the form of political support from two of the world’s largest religious faith systems – the Jewish and Christian faiths. With the former commando Netanyahu serving as the Israili Prime Minister extending the geographic base of his country – President Obama has held firm. President Obama is the pragmatic former law professor – litigating from a position of strength. While Obama has shifted the world dialogue on issues of violent force – Netanyahu missed the shift and continues his determination to be a martyr for his country. Cold blooded, non emotional decisions will prevail.
Cold blooded calculation is great for problem solving – not so much for public image. President Obama faces the worst environmental catastrophe in the history of man. As is his custom, President Obama called his experts together and moderated a rational discussion on options to minimize the devastation. Everything from allowing the private sector the lead role to a military takeover of the oil industry was presented, discussed, cussed, and the President made his decisions. Once again, the practical man prevailed. Everything that can be done is being done. Almost everything.
As noted, cold blooded calculation is great for pragmatic decision making. The process is generally best for the long term benefit of humanity. But this sort of process is not an effective short term leadership style.
We have only to imagine other great leaders and their response to crisis. Start with T. R. Roosevelt: During the West Virginia coal miner’s strike of 1901 the two side, owners and union, refused to negotiate. Roosevelt called them to the White House, told them to accept an arbitrator, and threatened a military take-over of the mines if a solution was not reached before winter. Roosevelt dominated the meeting by the shear force of his personality and his known willingness to act. How about Harry Truman? When the railroad workers threatened a strike in 1950, with the potential of crippling the economy, Truman gave them hell – threatening to draft all railroad union workers into the military and then making them do their jobs. And how about that Winston Churchill character? He gave Adolph Hitler a dose of forceful leadership – he rose in the house of parliament to declare there would be no surrender – he would offer all of his ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ in defense of his country.
The political campaigns of 2008 posed the question: Who do you want to answer the phone at 3:00 AM – when there is a world crisis. The notion at the time was that Obama was too inexperienced to deal with world class troubles. As it turns out – Obama is the most calm, cold blooded, calculating politician to hold the office of President in many years. Obama does not get flustered or stressed out or fearful. Obama is a cool character – not easily riled. There is probably no one better to answer the phone at 3:00 AM.
But leadership is not just about decision making. Good decisions are central to good governance – but we Americans want to see some legitimate emotional connection to crisis. We want the President to relate to us on a personal level. We want to know that our leader understands the magnitude of our hurts and fears. We rallied behind the forceful oratory of the candidate Barack Obama. We saw the fire in his belly. His voice rose as he pointed his finger and shook his fist, “Not Now!” he shouted. “Not this time!” he continued.
Where is the measured emotional charge of the Candidate Obama? He should call a joint session of Congress and give a rousing testimony to the Government’s determination to fight the oil invasion in the Gulf of Mexico. Reading accounts of serious meetings and pragmatic decisions does not quench our thirst for leadership.