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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Failure of Leadership

Health care is in disarray. The Democrats are in disarray. There is infighting everywhere. No one can explain the health care plan. No one knows what's in the plan. No one knows what the White House wants. Ultimately, this is a failure of leadership. There is a story in the Washington Post this morning that sums up the situation.

President Obama's advisers acknowledged Tuesday that they were unprepared for the intraparty rift that occurred over the fate of a proposed public health insurance program, a firestorm that has left the White House searching for a way to reclaim the initiative on the president's top legislative priority.

Try and put that into perspective. The White House floated the idea of backing away from the "public option" without knowing how that would play with the left wing of their own party. How's that for leadership?

The whole fiasco surrounding the White House's stance on the public option is a total failure of leadership. They floated the idea over the weekend. Then, they immediately backed away from that new position. Then, they've spent the last two days claiming that they haven't changed their stance. Secretary Sebelius proclaimed that the uproar surrounding their change in stance was due "to a slow news day". Think about that. The White House claims that they might be willing to back away from the public option. The media reports on this change in stance, and then the White House blames the media for doing its job.

We're now four days from the White House initially floating this idea and still no one knows what the position of the White House is. As late as July 19th, here's what the White House said about the public option.

[A]ny plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, cost and track records of a variety of plans - including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest - and choose what's best for your family.

The president was pretty clear then. Yet, here's how Robert Gibbs characterized the situation yesterday.

The goals are choice and competition. His preference is a public option. If there are other ideas, he's happy to look at them

Of course, the White House is engaging in a game of don't believe your lying eyes. In July, the public option was mandatory and now it's preferred. So, which is it? No one knows and by leaving that undefined this creates confusion and chaos. That's a failure of leadership.

Obama's failure in leadership extends far beyond simply the "public option". The president has failed to to take a stand on anything related to the bill. He laid out some broad principles and let the legislature fill in the details. Then, when that same legislature begin to fight with itself, Obama failed to step in to take a stand and control the debate. That's a failure of leadership.

Beyond this, Obama's message has constantly shifted. First, he was doing health care reform to cover the uninsured. Then, he was doing it to cut costs. Then, when the CBO countered that claim, he changed his stance from health care reform to "health insurance" reform. No one is really sure what he's trying to accomplish and that's likely because he himself doesn't know.

Worst of all, as things started to go South, Obama began pointing fingers. He blamed the media, cable news, misinformation, the protesters, etc. It's a sign of leadership to take responsibility when things go bad. It's a sign of weakness to blame everyone but yourself when things go bad. Obama is doing the latter.

What's worrisome about all this is that leadership was one of the biggest complaints made against Obama. He's an individual with a light resume up to the Presidency. Leadership was always a concern about his presidency. The fiasco surrounding the health care debate gives very strong evidence that he's simply not up to the job. He can't control the legislature, the message, and he can't create a coalition around which a piece of legislation would pass. The worst part is that the environment couldn't be easier for him. He has overwhelming majorities in both Houses, and still he can't seem to get a bill through that will pass.

The real trouble here is that once people believe you can't lead you can't do much of anything as president. Katrina was also a total failure of leadership and George Bush never recovered from that perception.

The good news is that Bill Clinton went through similar growing pains and eventually figured it out and he figured it out with a Republican legislature. We can all only hope that President Obama grows into his role as a leader because right now there is a serious failure in leadership.


Anonymous said...

It is certainly true that the pretender of a President, Mr. Obama, and his henchmen, have been unable to sustain the sham of their "Health Care Reform" attempt at governance by empty rhetoric combined with legistlative subterfuge, and one hopes the inevitable damage to their credibility is permanent. On a deeper level, however, the failure of the plan is not one of "leadership" but of substance. In desiring to substitute a post office style government monopoly (whether de-jure or de-facto) for the feared rigours of a free market (which we began compromising over 35 years ago)even though it was justly tempered by charity when free, Obama and the Left, fail to understand that the imagined efficiencies of government are illusory, despite abundant evidence in the history of government social programs while abandoning the inherent and proven power of market forces to generate improvements in technology, treatment innovations and lower costs over time, that Adam Smith taught the world more than 200 years ago and which has been consistently been proven and tested repeatedly since. This is their essential failure and the greatest danger to civilization, that a government system will be imposed, even if only by myriad panels, government studies, and "best practices" enforced by budgetary mandates. When the parasite consumes the host, both will not survive. Government mandates and other coercion are parasitic to freedom and economic wealth. Free people are the host.

mike volpe said...

I don't disagree however we are arguing over the definition of is here. I would say that a failure in substance is a failure in leadership. After all, he allowed the legislature t write this gargantuan 1000 plus page bill. He didn't demand that they improve it. He didn't predict how it would play and he couldn't figure out how to get the democrats to get on board. What is that if not a failure in leadership?

henry young said...

Why can't just those why pay taxes get health b'out that Obama and the rest of the health care reform starters??? NO seriously, this I could be in favor of, but not just letting any old person that comes to America, even the illegal’s to get health care and our taxes go up the roof???? No, sure, I will cont. to fight this...

Anonymous said...

To say that Obama was caught unawares about how his base would take eliminating the public option reveals two very significant facts:

1. The Democratic leadership has NEVER taken their base seriously. Clinton didn't, Kerry didn't, Daschle didn't, Reid doesn't, Pelosi doesn't, and Obama doesn't.

2. That one of Obama's advisers would leak this to the media shows just how conservative the people Obama has surrounded himself with truly are.