By Jill Chapin
June 7, 2014
Do you remember President Clinton wagging his finger into the camera, insisting he never had sex with “that woman” and ending the clip saying he had to get back to working for the American people? Call it whatever you want, but that angry tirade had moxie, guts, and a sense that he believed his own words. It was his steely resolve and a show of strength at a time when he was most vulnerable that led to his approval ratings soaring down the road.
When critics accuse President Obama of being weak, it seems to be almost less about what he is doing or not doing, and more about his unwillingness to get angry and in-your-face. Those who repeatedly throw inane and inaccurate accusations over the airwaves are well aware that their inflammatory but memorable sound bites will resonate with a country that has little patience for nuance and extenuating circumstances. But unlike President Clinton, who never let a news cycle slip by without counteracting every accusation against him, President Obama seems almost monk-like in turning the other cheek. With the vacuum he creates, others rush in to fill it, too often with partisan, vitriolic, unscientific retorts. And accurate or not, if repeated enough, people believe it.
There are many who vehemently feel the President’s policies are ill-advised or duplicitous. I can appreciate their assessment, but I wonder if at least some of their derision isn’t fomented by his increasing lack of defending his positions in a more forceful way; he needs to explain beyond a few measured words the reasons for what he does. I’m still one of his supporters but even I am getting exasperated by his meekness in standing up to his critics regarding his positions on so many issues. He has a bully pulpit and he should use it.
Senator John Boehner recently derided the President as being “nuts” for believing the Keystone pipeline could cause environmental damage. Never mind that he qualified his assessment by noting that he was not a scientist, never mind the threat of eco-terrorism on that pipeline that could be disastrous, never mind that we need to focus on cleaner, renewable energies. It is likely that the President considers the senator’s comments beneath him and not worthy of a retort, but sometimes an absurd statement needs to be addressed. Many of us would appreciate a Voice-in-Chief who puts those who spew out uninformed rants where they belong – back in grade school.
He should be railing against Congress for not passing a sensible gun law; yet despite the now almost weekly campus shootings, we hear no outrage. We need a temper tantrum but his professorial demeanor keeps him in check and removed from those of us who long to see some passion. I’ve heretofore always admired the No Drama Obama, but sometimes the public needs to see his feathers ruffled.
We need to hear more from our president on a regular basis. His near silence against a barrage of criticism that things are not improving fast enough should be replaced with him giving us a reality check. People today are impatient for instant results; President Obama should be wagging that proverbial finger at us, telling us to grow up; that change takes a bit longer than what happens on prime time TV.
Martin Luther King said that our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. President Obama would do well to heed these words; his effectiveness as a leader is in a steep decline because he has remained too silent about things that really do matter a great deal to him.