Waiting for the President

Michael Gerson is tired of Obama’s Afghanistan-war seminars. He’s had it with the international pontification:

Obama’s high-profile international speeches, such as his Cairo remarks and United Nations address, have sought to transcend ideological debates, not engage them on one side. In this rhetorical approach, the world has many criticisms of America, some of them unfair, but America also has many flaws and failures. Thankfully, the bad old days of misunderstanding are now over, because of the arrival of Obama himself.

And Gerson joins those of us who find Obama’s above-it-all cool-customer routine off-putting, if not downright bizarre. (“In a tragedy — such as the Fort Hood shootings — his public reactions can be oddly muted and medicinal. What makes Obama outraged? For what would he willingly sacrifice his popularity, his pride, his presidency?”)

We see that what was inviting or alluring during a campaign (He doesn’t get rattled!) is startlingly inappropriate for governance (What’s wrong with him?). Part of the buyer’s remorse stems from the ideological bait and switch (ran as a moderate, governs as an ultra-leftist), but some of it is attributable to the gnawing sense that Obama doesn’t act very presidential. He attacks a news network. He dawdles on war-planning. He seems to cheerlead less for America than for “multilateralism.” He doesn’t put forth his own legislation but defers to the left wing of his own party.

If we think of presidents as magnanimous, decisive, and bold advocates of American interests, Obama seems to not quite fit the job description. He is peevish when he should rise above the fray. He is passive when he should be bold. He is equivocating when he should be decisive. It takes time for candidates to grow into the presidency, and sometimes a crisis is required to jolt a White House occupant into assuming a grander vision of the presidency and his own responsibilities; to be not simply a partisan candidate but the head of state and commander in chief.

Obama has had 10 months, two wars, an economic crisis, and now a terrorist attack. It’s time to step up to the plate. If not now, when?