Nero famously fiddled while Rome burned. Apparently, President Obama is trying to outdo Nero. At a point in our nation’s history when America needs leadership more than ever, the best President Obama can do is play golf. Wait. That’s not a wholly accurate statement. To be fair, the president does more than just play golf. He also makes speeches. Unfortunately, leadership amounts to more than playing golf and making speeches. Consider the challenges America faces.
Our nation is increasingly vulnerable to terrorists, Israel and Hamas remain on the brink of all-out war, ISIS functionaries blithely behead American journalists, our southern border is as porous as Swiss cheese, Ferguson, Missouri proved once again that race is still be exploited by race profiteers, Iran is developing a viable nuclear capability, Russia is looking more and more like the old Soviet Union at its aggressive worst, our enemies are gaining ground on us daily, the economy is stuck in neutral, unemployment remains stubbornly high while underemployment is even worse, and America’s financial rating is plummeting. With all of this, President Obama’s response is to play golf and give campaign speeches.
Apparently, they don’t teach leadership at Harvard Law School. If they did, here are a few things Barack Obama might have learned:
- Effective leaders don’t just stay on top of problems they get out in front of them. It must be difficult for the Obama administration to get out in front of America’s problems at home and abroad when the president spends more time on the golf course than in the Oval Office. Being an effective president requires that the occupant of the White House operate like a chess master, thinking three or four moves ahead of the opposition. Barack Obama is so far behind opposition leaders that he isn’t even on the board.
- Effective leaders understand that action is what counts, not words. Leadership is about looking challenges squarely in the eye and taking decisive action to overcome them. The best leaders lead by example and use words only when necessary. Barack Obama, unfortunately, seems to have only one tool in his leadership toolbox: words. The president is the personification of the one-trick pony. He knows how to do one thing: talk. The man talks, talks, and talks some more, but he doesn’t do anything. After a while, America’s enemies were bound to figure out that President Obama is all talk and no action—and they have. Consider the contrast between President Obama and other American presidents. The Soviet leaders feared and respected President Reagan because they knew he would act. When he proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), western journalists scoffed, but the Soviet leaders didn’t. They took him seriously because he had proven in Berlin and Grenada that he would act to protect the best interests of the United States. International terrorist groups feared President George W. Bush because, once again, they knew he would act.
- Effective leaders understand that credibility matters. Leaders gain credibility by showing they are good at what they do, acting decisively on behalf of those they lead, doing the right thing even when it hurts, telling the truth in all situations, and showing they are engaged. President Obama fails the credibility test in all of its aspects. Barack Obama has been such an ineffective president that many Americans now believe he is purposely trying to undermine the United States. The thinking of people in this camp is that no person elected president could be as inept as Barack Obama has been. The man just does not appear to know what he is doing. On the other hand, maybe he knows precisely what he is doing. As for acting decisively on behalf of those he leads, President Obama has done little but talk. The only decisive actions he has taken have been actions that have hurt the American people. His actions in the domestic arena have made our economy weaker and his inaction in the foreign-policy arena has made us more vulnerable. Doing the right thing even when it hurts falls under the heading of self-sacrifice. President Obama appears to have no concept of self-sacrifice. When the citizens of the Northeast were suffering from a hurricane that was followed soon after by an ice storm, Barack Obama took a much publicized vacation to Hawaii. When American journalists were beheaded on television, President Obama offered a few hollow words and then dashed off to the golf course. While Ferguson, Missouri was going through a dangerous and destructive upheaval of riots and looting, rather go there and use his position as president to help calm the anger and frustration, he simply said a few words and again dashed off to the golf course. As a man and as a president, Barack Obama appears to lack any sense of compassion or empathy for the American people. Further, he comes across as a spoiled, self-indulgent frat-brat who would rather play than engage in serious matters. Self-sacrifice on behalf of those he is supposed to lead appears to be a foreign concept to this president. As for telling the truth in all situations, I will simply mention “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor;” “if you like your insurance policy you can keep it;” and “the cost of most insurance premiums will be cut in half.” Enough said on that topic. Finally, as for showing that he is engaged, Barack Obama has shown over and over that he is engaged only in pursuing the perquisites of being president—namely playing golf and taking expensive vacations. It is as if he thinks, “I’ve got mine now and I’m going to make the most of it. The rest of you can just suck it up.” America desperately needs a leader. We have enough golfers and talkers.