Obama Hasn’t Shown Leadership?

Rep. John Boehner, Rep. Eric Cantor - photo by republicanconference

A common talking point of Republican lawmakers – including house speaker John Boehner and house majority leader Eric Cantor – is that President Obama hasn’t shown leadership. This is an example of politicians repeating a phrase, regardless of whether it’s true, to sway public opinion towards a particular narrative. What do they mean when they say Obama hasn’t shown leadership? What is the measure used to decide this? It certainly couldn’t be the long list of achievements in less than 3 years…

  • averted another great depression
  • credit card reform
  • student loan reform
  • troop draw-down in Iraq
  • repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
  • Osama bin Laden
  • saved the American automobile industry
  • health care reform
  • consumer protection bureau
  • wall street reform

You can make arguments as to the effectiveness of some of these achievements but you cannot say that President Obama has not led in his first 3 years in office.

So what do Republicans mean when they say President Obama hasn’t shown leadership? I think what it means is that he hasn’t fully embraced Republican ideology. Obama has met Republicans halfway (and then some) on many of his achievements but we know Republicans wouldn’t have attempted many of these initiatives in the first place. For example, many Republicans – including presidential candidates – say they will repeal the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell if allowed the opportunity.

This dynamic is similar to the claims from the Right of judicial activism. What is judicial activism? It’s a decision by a judge that one – the person making the activism claim – does not agree with. So when they say Obama hasn’t shown leadership, what they are really saying is that Obama hasn’t fully embraced conservative ideology.


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