Its fascinating to me that in the midst of the kind of lunacy coming from the Republican Party these days that this is such a hot topic for the DC insiders. And so I scratch my head and wonder WTH is wrong with this country that we're even talking about it.
The truth is that no matter how crazy the Republicans get, the belief in some circles persists that one person in the presidency should be able to control things. This has been referred to as the Green Lantern theory of presidential power. It is ubiquitous, not just with DC pundits, but we see it often coming from the President's critics on the left (he "abandoned" the public option in health care reform even though it NEVER had 60 votes in the Senate) and the public at large.
I'd suggest that rather than trying to figure out what's wrong with President Obama, perhaps its time we held a mirror up to ourselves to find the root of the problem. We really struggle with this whole representative democracy thing. As much as we like to talk about things like "freedom," we are constantly on the look-out for a leader who can fix it all for us. When things get difficult or messy, it must be his (or her) fault. That is the position of a victim and the classic underpinning of authoritarianism.
We don't like messy or difficult and so we want our leader to present things to us in the clear terms of good vs evil or black vs white. Listen to how Harris and Purdum describe that in the Politico article.
This president lately has faced situations that cried out for a black-and-white sense of purpose, and unquestioned public command...Notice that they wanted President Obama to project power - not reason. As if the two were mutually exclusive. That's because they see power as dominance over others. To fail to project that kind of power means that you get bullied. This is where the frame of weakness comes from.
The common theme in both episodes [Syria and Summers] is that they were about projecting power, not summoning sweet reason. Obama’s approach put him in the position of being bullied — in one case by a sworn enemy, in the other by ostensible friends — who could not have cared less about his own nuanced views.
Nowhere in the analysis of these two situations do the authors discuss actual outcomes. That's because their sole focus is on the either/or process of a win/lose power game. If President Obama isn't winning, he must be losing - regardless of the superior outcome in Syria or whoever becomes the next Federal Reserve Chair. And of course in this framework, all that matters is the win.
Even if winning was possible via dominance, that is not what this President is about. Instead he is about getting the best possible outcomes via the power of partnership...working with people as opposed to trying to win against them. That means we're all involved in the solution - whether he's talking about citizenship in a democracy, the role of Congress as representatives of the people, or working with the global community on shared interests.
From the beginning, one of the questions I've had is whether or not America is ready for the kind of leadership President Obama would provide. Are we ready to explore the power of partnership rather than simply rely on dominance? I suspect that is the experiment we're seeing unfold. As Michelle Obama said about her husband years ago:
Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He's a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.