An adviser who worked on the campaign e-mailed me recently about his disappointment with Obama, saying that the president is ill-equipped psychologically for what it would take to be a hero, namely to slay a dragon: “He can’t slay anything, sadly, except the legacy of FDR.”
Those words are disheartening, but they speak for many of Obama’s supporters, who want him to quit equivocating about everything—pick a side, pick a church, pound the table at least metaphorically, and belittle the opposition the way FDR did, reacting to partisan criticism like it’s a badge of honor. Obama has got so much to work with: it’s the Christmas season, and the GOP wants to cut off unemployment benefits while they hold the rest of the congressional agenda hostage to getting the tax cuts they want. Obama wants to be above politics, but now’s the time to get in the mosh pit and play politics as though his presidency depended on it—because it does.
Obama’s policies saved the American car industry, kept thousands of teachers and first responders on the job, delivered tax cuts for 95 percent of workers, and are closing the infamous “doughnut hole” for seniors, but who would know? The GOP’s current policies for the economy will do nothing to invigorate the recovery and could stall it if they continue to block the extension of unemployment benefits to some 40 million Americans who are out of work. Everybody knows what the Republicans want; there’s no mystery. Obama is the solo operator tacking about in the hope of finding an elusive consensus. He didn’t like playing the game as a candidate, and he appears to like it less as president, but the rest of us are craving the leadership we know he’s capable of, and time is running out.