Looks like Chris Matthews isn’t going to get a tingle over Barack Obama’s latest pivot. On last night’s Hardball, Matthews ripped Obama for a lack of leadership and focus, complaining that the President jumps from issue to issue with no particular purpose or plan. Matthews even went so far as to suggest that he misses George W. Bush … a little, anyway (via Jen Rubin on Twitter):
Chris Matthews took Obama to task on Wednesday for being too “reactive” to events and not controlling or focusing the discussion on issues he wants to talk about. Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank agreed, saying that there is a deficit of “forceful leadership” from the Obama White House.
In fact, Milbank even went so far as to credit George W. Bush for this quality sorely lacking in Obama. At least with Bush, Milbank argued, “he got stuff done, hammering away for taxes, for war… whereas Obama sort of flits and flies from topic to topic.” Matthews wished Obama would be tougher against Republicans on key issues, while HuffPo’s Sam Stein noted Obama’s pushed a little, but not quite enough.
Matthews vented a little, saying “this Mini-Me stuff has got to stop.” Milbank said Obama’s political nuance looks too much like “muddled thinking” to people, suggesting he needs to start campaigning for big issues with bumper-sticker slogans. Stein made it clear part of the lack of action in Washington is derived in part from Republican obstructionism.
“Republican obstructionism”? Obama had control of Congress for the first two years of his presidency, and the only issues that concerned the White House then were a health-system overhaul that’s becoming more and more unpopular as it becomes more and more unworkable, and a stimulus bill that failed to meet its own metrics, let alone create the normal jobs boom that follows after sharp recessions. Republicans gained control of the House because of Obama’s policies, and they may well take control of the Senate in 2014. Throwing up one’s hands isn’t leadership, either.
The solution offered to this conundrum is risible on its face. Matthews and his panel want bumper-sticker slogans and campaigns for policies. Obama has been offering nothing but both for his entire presidency, while leaving the actual governance to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. When Obama tried applying that approach to foreign policy and Syria by glibly mentioning a red line, doing nothing for a year, and then attempted two weeks of sloganeering to get support for an act of war, Obama wound up with egg on his face and Vladimir Putin as the leader of Western diplomacy. Now he’s Putin’s Mini-Me, to use Matthews’ analogy.
Perhaps Obama would be better off trying a new leadership model. I’m sure George W. Bush would be happy to counsel him.