This week our political representatives in Washington are negotiating the Federal budget, and as we plan to borrow $1.3 trillion dollars over the coming 12 months, they are fighting over whether we will reduce spending by $6 billion (Democrats) or $61 billion (Republicans).  As this dangerous game of chicken plays out, the most important player in the game sits completely on the sidelines, silent.  That player is President Obama.

We all wondered, but held some inexplicable but now-proven irrational hope, whether this excellent campaigner and speaker could lead our country.  With stars in our eyes, we overlooked the fact that he had never led anything of any significance in his lifetime, and that his credentials were almost nil.  A visiting college professor, a community organizer, a 2 year state senator, a man with no social or family roots, no college roommates, no “old buddies” which we could use to get a bearing on this man, no executive experience.  And yet there he sits in the White House, our President, failing to lead.  In retrospect this should have been obvious.

The first warning sign on leadership (other than his lack of experience) was the constant post election references to what he “inherited” from the previous administration.  No leader does that.  Previous Presidents haven’t done it, new college football coaches don’t say “my predecessor left me with a lousy roster”, leaders of troubled business organizations don’t make reference to the previous CEO.  They simply assume the public knows what the starting point is, and they role up their sleeves and they get to work.   But for our President, he wanted to make sure he mentioned, likely hundreds of times, what he inherited.  Leaders do not do this.

On healthcare and the stimulus, he outsourced to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and as he relinquished his leadership position and the process and elements in the bills got further and further away from him and whatever principles he had in mind, it became obvious that no matter what was in these two bills he was going to sign them.  And so, without a leader, Pelosi and Reid did what unrestrained politicians do.  They run amuck, they get extreme, they get too complex and they cater to their friends and donors.  And they spend like drunken sailors.

Even now he continues to fail to lead on the 2011 budget, perhaps the most threatening situation of all to our way of life.  In the 4th quarter of 2010, even controlling both Houses of Congress, and a near super-majority in the Senate, this Democratic President could not pass a budget because he could not lead.  Instead he opted to run the 4-corners during September and October, waiting for an election in November in which he and his party were slaughtered nonetheless.  In trying to protect himself and his party dominance, the Democrats were slaughtered.  One wonders what the results would have been had he, rather than playing it safe, led his party to do the right things and meet their obligation to develop and pass a responsible budget in the month of October of 2010.  Instead the budget is unresolved to this day, festering, as deficits climb by more than $5 billion each day.  The President’s budget, submitted on February 1 and full of obvious lies and financial trickery, generating trillions in additional debt over the next decade, was DOA and he knew it before he even released it.  He called it a “budget of hard choices”, when in fact he hadn’t made a single hard choice in it.  On the budget, he is a football coach going into the locker room before the big game and saying to his players “OK Men, does anyone have a game plan for today?”

There are so many other failures to lead.  One of the the most recent being his heading on vacation after our friends in Japan were struck by a horrifying disaster, and dedicating his radio address to women’s rights while thousands of Japanese lay dying in rubble.  This was an event which would have had Ronald Reagan and most other Presidents calling a special speech to the nation and world, rallying and comforting all at once.  But nothing from this President.

The other recent event was Libya, launching an air campaign 4 weeks late after allowing Gaddhafi to escape a noose that was around his neck 4 weeks earlier, and then only doing so after the French and the Arab League pushed us to do so.  And only after getting “approval” from the UN, all the while not addressing the nation, or for that matter the Congress.

So when President Obama speaks now only the most optimistic, almost hypnotized liberals find him convincing and inspiring.  His voice sounds tired, his phrases too scripted, his personality awkward, his principles uncertain.

We have another 20 months of this administration, and as much as I don’t want to see President Obama re-elected, we need him to start leading.  This nation cannot tolerate or sustain 20 months in this volatile economy and world without a leader.


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3 Responses to Leaderless

  1. Gene Josephs says:

    Dan, one of your best articles—-being a “new dad” again has led to additional clarity.

  2. Dave Watnick says:


    Though the balance of my comment (or commentary, more accurately) may render this an odd venue for doing so, I offer my warmest congratulation on the arrival of your new daughter and the joy she’ll bring your family.

    Now then: I’m not particularly receptive to any of the opinions you advance in this post, save your frustration with President Obama’s shamefully drowsy response to the inspiring and heroic Libyan uprising. Despite my many objections, though, I take you to task on only one element of this thoughtful entry.

    As you say:

    “With stars in our eyes, we overlooked the fact that he had never led anything of any significance in his lifetime, and that his credentials were almost nil … a man with no social or family roots.”

    I can think of few, if any, “credentials” as immaterial to one’s leadership abilities as “social or family roots.” As we’re all painfully reminded at one point or another: Individuals do not pick their family members. And family roots beget social roots, so a person has no say in those either. To examine one’s caste for insight into his or her talents is to shun the fundamental principle of meritocracy — a principal that underpins not only the founding of this nation, but also the entire idea of modernity.

    The concept of evaluating a person on merit, and merit alone, is a remarkably just and powerful one that deserves to be observed for it’s own sake. Still, it can be enlightening to consider what would happen if we stray from it.

    I’m quite glad — and I’m sure you are too — that Abraham Lincoln’s undignified origins and virtual lack of family and social roots didn’t prevent him from winning the presidency in 1860. Likewise, I’m glad that nobody from the unremarkable modern Kennedy generation has sniffed serious political power, even though they hail from the most rarefied of social and family roots. I don’t think George H.W. Bush’s nauseatingly benign term should’ve precluded George W. Bush from seeking and winning the presidency, and I don’t think George W. Bush’s nauseatingly witless tenure should keep Jenna or Barbara away from a chance to complete the Bush trifecta.

    I concede that the impact of undesirable family and/or social influences may do irreparable hard to one’s character, but I simply cannot see the relevance of this fact to Obama’s case.

    Barack Obama may well be deficient in certain leadership capacities, and he may well have emerged from unconventional — or even unideal — roots, but there is absolutely no indication of a causal relationship between his family circumstances and his tepid leadership. Moreover, to think that his family background should’ve tipped us off to the indecisive president that awaited is bordering on hysteria.

    November 2012 is a ways off yet, but I can promise two things about the election. First, that I will not vote for Barack Obama; second, that when I do choose a candidate, family and social roots will not enter into my calculus.

    I’m sure you’re busy these days, but I hope the baby won’t keep you from writing — it’s always entertaining to hear your take.


    Dave Watnick

    • vofreason says:


      It’s great to hear from you and thank you for your comments about our wonderful new addition. She will bring so much joy to the Papes family!

      I also thank you for your thoughtful response to my post regarding President Obama’s leadership qualities and background.

      As I was writing my post the other day it did occur to me that I wasn’t expressing myself in exactly the way I preferred in regards to the President’s family history, but your note provides me the opportunity to clarify further what I intended by the comment about his family history.

      For me, caste (I don’t like this word) and family background and race as stand-alone qualities/characteristics doesn’t mean very much to me, but when considered as part of a broader portfolio of one’s background it may be a factor, and I think in this case it is. In regards to President Obama, I was always struck by the fact that we knew so little about him. We didn’t and don’t know much about his family, for better or worse, versus what we did about the Bush family and other President’s families/background. We don’t know any of his close friends, we know nothing about his college experience or his college friends, his grades, his social style, the classes he found interesting, his vices and principles, etc. With all of our previous Presidents, and pretty much every other politician serving in Congress or in the White House in our generation, we know far, far more.

      For instance, with President H. W. Bush we knew his college friends, his military friends, his father (Prescott Bush) and his father’s political success, H. W.’s All-American honors as a baseball player at Yale, his experience as the head of the CIA, as the US Ambassador to China during a transformational period, and 8 years as the Vice President of the United States under President Reagan. With H. W.’s son, we just added the next chapter of this history, and we knew more than we wanted to know about W and his rearing, his college, his graduate school experience, his friends, and his 2 terms (one partial) as the Governor of the second largest state in the Union.

      So what I was trying to say was we had almost no information about President Obama. We knew he was a 2 year state Senator (one term) which he won by winning the primary after a last minute sex scandal against his Democrat opponent in the primary (Obama was way behind prior to the scandal), and then that he beat his Republican opponent after ugly divorce accusations were made public about his opponent close to the election– again where Obama trailed significantly, probably insurmountably otherwise, in the polls.

      When I pointed out a number of characteristics in Obama about how little we knew about him and how little experience he had, I added the family history part because as part of a number of things to consider I believed this is one of them. For instance, people may have voted against Bush 43 because they didn’t like Bush 41 and they didn’t like what 41 stood for or his policies, or at a minimum viewed them as hints as to what 43 might be like. For Obama we had none of that. We had no meaningful family history by which to help us judge his character. We had no leadership experiences by which to evaluate his potential performance as a leader. We had almost nothing upon which to evaluate this man we now have as our President other than the words in his speeches, which we either had to accept at face value and support, or to wonder if he was someone reading a script that someone else told him that, if he read the words properly, he would be elected President. He is an enigma like none other in American national politics, and he is the most powerful person in the world.

      In our lifetimes we have never had a President that we knew so little about before putting him in office. Bill Clinton was somewhat unproven, and never would have come within 8 percentage points of being elected were it not for Ross Perot splitting the Republicans and dooming Bush 41’s re-election bid, but at least he had been governor of Arkansas and had some leadership/executive experience, and we knew a lot about him. Obama falls far short of even that scant history.

      Lastly, President Obama could have proven my point to be moot (as perhaps, say, Lincoln would have). He could have been one of these people for whom we can’t quantify or evaluate their history and characteristics, and yet somehow they are so gifted they find a way to succeed. However, in my view President Obama was totally unproven and unknown and someone we couldn’t figure out prior to the election, and now as President all of the concerns that would arise from such characteristics are manifesting themselves in the disaster he is turning out to be. He had no leadership experience, and he is turning out to be a terrible leader. I didn’t know what his principles were, and I still don’t.

      I hope that you continue to read my blog and to offer your articulate points of view, and in doing so to share your views with my many regular subscribers.

      Thanks again Dave. Dan

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