11.02.09

Just Another Politician

Once perceived as transformative, Obama now looks more and more like a regular politician, ensnared by petty squabbles, obsessed with politics instead of leadership, and often paralyzed by decision-making.

A year ago, Barack Obama was elected in a wave of hope: for him, the first black president, and for the country, mired in an economic crisis and engaged in two hot wars and broader war against Islamic radicalism.

Since the election, however, a dangerous thing for Obama has been happening: Hope is turning into cynicism and disappointment. The figure once perceived as transformative now looks more and more like a regular politician, ensnared by petty arguments, obsessed with politics instead of leadership, and often paralyzed by decision-making.

Our enemies just aren’t that into us, and our friends think they’re on their own.

He has made two major mistakes. First, just as he accused President George W. Bush of taking his eye off Afghanistan to prosecute the Iraq war, Obama has taken his eye off the economy to focus on health care. And in both instances, he ceded control to the Democrats in Congress, who made a hash of the $787 billion economic “stimulus” and who are in the process of destroying health care. He told us that the stimulus would keep unemployment to 8 percent; it’s now closing in on 10 percent. The 3.5 percent third-quarter GDP growth was due almost entirely to government spending—Cash for Clunkers, the first-time home buyers’ credit, and the extension in unemployment benefits—that was all temporary and that so warped the free market that most observers expect a second recessionary dip.

Health-care reform has even more deeply divided the Democrats, and Obama has essentially been AWOL, except to say he’ll sign whatever destructive mess they put in front of him.

More Daily Beast contributors on Obama’s election anniversarySecond, he has pursued international “engagement” without considering the consequences for diplomatic failure. This has allowed the Iranians to buy more time as they develop nuclear weapons, the Russians and the Chinese to diss him on Iranian sanctions, the Venezuelans to gain Russian help on nukes, the Pakistanis to grow increasingly furious, the Afghans to resent meddling in their presidential election, the Palestinians to refuse to return to the negotiating table, and our allies—the British, French, Israelis, Japanese, South Koreans, Georgians, and all of Eastern Europe—to feel increasingly abandoned.

Our enemies just aren’t that into us, and our friends think they’re on their own.

Perhaps these are rookie mistakes, and Obama will grow wiser and more realistic in the job. Or perhaps he’s in over his head. Either way, he needs to get some grownups around him, and fast.

Monica Crowley is a radio and television political commentator based in New York. Since 2002, she's had her own nationally syndicated radio show, The Monica Crowley Show and is a regular commentator on The John Batchelor Show . She is a panelist for The McLaughlin Group, and she blogs at MonicaMemo.