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Misleading the Republic: Obama at the Helm

Per the prescient Alexander Hamilton: "A feeble executive implies a feeble execution of the government."

by
David A. Eisenberg

Bio

December 6, 2009 - 12:02 am
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Impartial observers looking for reasons to oppose Obama’s candidacy were not found wanting. Anyone capable of transcending the partisan pettifoggery with which the campaign, unexceptionally, was rife, would have been able to adduce a number of arguments why Obama was not fit to assume the nation’s highest office.

Perhaps the most prominent of these was his lack of experience. While not without weight, the argument was largely misguided. Experience, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. While there exists a strong correlation between experience and competence, the former is no guarantee of the latter. Publius Quinctilius Varus was not without experience when he lost three Roman legions, to say nothing of his own life, in the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.

The inverse is no less true, and more relevant to the matter at hand. Nature engenders prodigies in all walks of life whose concomitant want of experience and prodigious ability rightly garner the astonishment not only of their contemporaries but of their antecedents for generations to come. Alexander the Great — who at the age of 20 succeeded Phillip II as king of Macedon and went on to become the pharaoh of Egypt, shah of Persia, and king of Asia by the age of 25 — serves as no trifling testament in this regard.

Obama availed himself of neither approach. Instead, while implicitly conceding the value of experience, he adopted the rather dubious position that his lack of it was inconsequential because he possessed the judgment to lead.

Better to possess sound judgment and little experience than sound experience and little judgment, so the argument ran. That the claim was suspect at best could be gleaned from the fact that the basis for it was his Iraq War opposition, which was promulgated as a state legislator in Illinois’ overtly liberal 13th district. Parroting the sentiments of your constituents hardly is a measure of leadership. Even if opposing the war did suggest an uncommon sense of acuity (which would be odd seeing that resistance to the war was not exactly uncommon), then it was at the very least undermined, if not discredited, by Obama’s obdurate opposition to the surge.

But leaving all that aside, the entire logic was fundamentally fallacious for the very reason that the judgment to lead is not the ability to do so.

Were one to accept Obama’s assertion that he possessed the judgment to lead the most powerful nation on Earth, no discerning mind could be excused for thinking that he in fact had the ability to do so. His proclivity for voting “present,” his feigned outrage over Jeremiah Wright’s “divisive and destructive” comments only when it was expedient to do so, his weighing in on the conflict in Georgia by imploring both sides to show restraint, his speech in Berlin where his revisionism of the Cold War disclosed an understanding of a world where leaders play no role — all these things showed that Obama thinks there are no tough choices to be made. Little perspective was needed to see that, however myriad Obama’s talents may be, a talent for leadership could not be counted among them.

What should have been clear a year ago would seem irrefragable now that Obama occupies the center of the world stage and not just the center of the American one.

He completely handed over the workings of the stimulus plan. He completely mishandled a working out of a health care plan. He eagerly appeased a combative autocratic regime by reneging on an agreement with America’s democratic allies in Central Europe, and readily sanctioned a thuggish theocratic regime by eschewing the democratic longings of its suppressed populace in the Middle East. His feckless Israeli-Palestinian peace plan has gone nowhere; his vacuous approach to Iran’s nuclear program has nowhere to go. From his many equivocations on the question of prosecuting members of the intelligence community at home to his endless dithering on the question of how to prosecute “the necessary war” abroad, on not a single substantive point has Obama exhibited any genuine display of leadership.

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