At the moment, the president is quickly discovering that for every foreign and domestic policy issue, there can be a political consequence. In the Middle East, he seeks to craft a policy fair to both sides, but that leads to attacks at home that he has abandoned Israel. He tries to act responsibly and reduce the federal budget deficit, but that looks like “selling out” to many who are in his Democratic base and still reeling from the recession.
Obama’s core political problem, however, results from failure to establish himself as a strong leader, one willing to fight aggressively for what’s best for the country rather than taking his scholarly, deliberate approach. What Americans want is not necessarily a president who is always right but someone who stands and fights for them. They want a gut feeling that the president is on their side, that he understands the struggles they face to keep or find jobs, and not to lose the home facing foreclosure.
This president’s decline certainly seems based much more on how people “feel” about their leader than his specific policies. He needs to get out of the White House to Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia and New Mexico. He needs to prove that he is not aloof and understands the challenges that millions of Americans, especially those in the heartland, face every day. And, when he’s on the grand stage in Washington, he must be the leader that Americans thought they were electing.
The president can’t make this comeback by himself. He needs a team that understands the pulse of the country. How could his advisers possibly think that unveiling a deficit-cutting plan that results in headlines about tax increases would be a wise political move? Instead, how about a headline saying that the president won’t allow working families to lose their homes to foreclosures and that he vows to continue the federal role in helping Americans purchase homes?
That would be leadership and smart politics.
Republicans shouldn’t start victory celebrations just yet. Election results in Jacksonville, Fla., this spring may have been overlooked in Washington but may be a good barometer for the national electorate.
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