I recall feeling this same way about leadership I’d supported all the way back in 1979 and 1980. Jimmy Carter’s presidency, so hopeful at the outset because we were communally digging out from the morass that was Nixon/Ford, had become a mess. Unable to move forward in any substantial fashion in key areas of the economy, the energy crisis, and the hostage crisis in Iran, things just felt sad.
These days, Obama’s presidency is marked with similar problems that feel insurmountable: the economy, spying scandals, the rollout of the affordable Care Act, and as a supporter listening to the news, hopeful that something will suddenly change the sad undercurrent of the whole dynamic, you just start to feel like things can’t end soon enough.
The only difference these days is that Obama is a lame duck, or technically, is about to become one next year. These are the days that a president is supposed to just cruise, put in place programs and international accords that mark the presidency as a success.
But that won’t happen.
I was afraid that the overreaching that the administration kicked off right after being elected might have a backlash, and it has. The ACA, regardless of whether or not it’s a good piece of legislation, is a lightning rod, attracting the ire of anyone who hates government spending and oversized government programs. And rightly so, because in a democracy, these things should be discussed and adjusted to make them better serve the people of this nation. But instead, through hard lines adopted by both sides, no one budged. The law was passed and defended in court. It’s been implemented, and like most things this big and sweeping, killing it once it’s been started will be extraordinarily difficult.
The bigger problem, though, is that for such a tech-savvy bunch, they really don’t have a clue about how to really use their resources once in office. I mean, they had a killer database of voters and supporters that really did the work in helping win both elections. And their polls were demonstrably more accurate than anything the media or the GOP managed to come up with. Plus, there were and are people within the administration who are great planners, organizers, and motivators. And somehow, all of that evaporated when they were elected.
They’ve ham-handed the whole healthcare.gov rollout, which should have been a slam-dunk for a crew that practically invented the effective modern campaign website. They’ve botched communications at every turn, which seems odd for a group that proved over and over again that they could masterfully manipulate social media. And to top it off, they’ve taken forever to own up to problems and then work quickly to fix them.
It’s disappointing because I think everyone who supported them during the campaigns knows what the whole team is capable of, and they’ve fallen so far short of that. I mean, the money was there from the start to build a tremendously effective and efficient website for healthcare.gov, but they didn’t. They left it to the usual government contractors who don’t care about anything, except to make sure the check clears.
With the NSA scandals, Benghazi, budget issues, and the like, this administration has, unfortunately, been unresponsive. Given every opportunity to take the offensive and effectively put their message out to the world, they’ve been late, clumsy, unclear, and occasionally evasive, forcing them to clarify things, explain themselves, and seem like no one knows what’s going on. Which is exactly the opposite of the image the group ran on.
Think back to 2008. Obama was a political rising star, but still wasn’t in the minds of many outside of the beltway. Within months, he was building momentum at an amazing rate because his team knew what to say, how to say it, who to say it to, and when to say it. Scandals and questions were quickly dealt with and attention shifted. Problems were fixed promptly and with the proper humility.
When’s the last time that happened in the Obama administration?
Don’t get me wrong: I still support them and their ideals. I just believe that they’ve fallen down during a difficult period in this country’s history and haven’t been as effective as they could have been. And that’s disappointing because they’re capable of so much more.
See you later.