The Huffington Post contributor, Drew Westen, is a professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at a university just down the road from where I lived for many years. It appears he has hit the proverbial nail on the head describing my - and a lot of others, no doubt - feelings toward President Obama and his administration. It's long, probably 4,000 words, but the content is worth the read and analysis. One caveat, though: The author made the same mistake Howard Dean and Joe Scarborough made in referencing the insurance industry's "52-year high" on Friday. Obviously, the reference should have been to a "52-week high." That said, here are a few excerpts:
There's lots more here, and Professor Westen makes a good case.
Leadership, Obama Style, and the Looming Losses in 2010: Pretty Speeches, Compromised Values, and the Quest for the Lowest Common Denominator
Drew Westen | Psychologist and neuroscientist; Emory University Professor
Posted: December 20, 2009 09:34 PM
Somehow the president has managed to turn a base of new and progressive voters he himself energized like no one else could in 2008 into the likely stay-at-home voters of 2010, souring an entire generation of young people to the political process. It isn't hard for them to see that the winners seem to be the same no matter who the voters select (Wall Street, big oil, big Pharma, the insurance industry).
What's costing the president are three things: a laissez faire style of leadership that appears weak and removed to everyday Americans, a failure to articulate and defend any coherent ideological position on virtually anything, and a widespread perception that he cares more about special interests like bank, credit card, oil and coal, and health and pharmaceutical companies than he does about the people they are shafting.
Consider the president's leadership style, which has now become clear: deliver a moving speech, move on, and when push comes to shove, leave it to others to decide what to do if there's a conflict, because if there's a conflict, he doesn't want to be anywhere near it.
Like most Americans I talk to, when I see the president on television, I now change the channel the same way I did with Bush. With Bush, I couldn't stand his speeches because I knew he meant what he said. I knew he was going to follow through with one ignorant, dangerous, or misguided policy after another. With Obama, I can't stand them because I realize he doesn't mean what he says -- or if he does, he just doesn't have the fire in his belly to follow through. He can't seem to muster the passion to fight for any of what he believes in, whatever that is. He'd make a great queen -- his ceremonial addresses are magnificent -- but he prefers to fly Air Force One at 60,000 feet and "stay above the fray."
Gays? Virtually all Americans are for repealing don't ask/don't tell (except for conservatives who haven't yet come to terms with their own homosexuality -- but don't tell them that, or at least don't ask). This one's a no-brainer. Tell Congress you want a bill on your desk by January 1, and announce that you have serious questions about the constitutionality of the current policy and won't enforce it until your Justice Department has had time to study it. Don't keep firing gay Arabic interpreters. But that would require not just giving the pretty speech on how we're all equal in the eyes of God and we should all be equal in the eyes of the law (a phrase he might want to try sometime). It would require actually doing something that might anger a small percentage of the population on the right, and that's just too hard for this president to do. It's one thing to acknowledge and respect the positions of people who hold different points of view. It's another to capitulate to them.
Am I being too hard on the president? He's certainly done many good things. But it would be hard to name a single thing President Obama has done domestically that any other Democrat wouldn't have done if he or she were president following George W. Bush (e.g., signing the children's health insurance bill that Congress is about to gut to pay for worse care for kids under the health insurance exchange, if it ever happens), and there's a lot he hasn't done that every other Democrat who ran for president would have done.
Obama, like so many Democrats in Congress, has fallen prey to the conventional Democratic strategic wisdom: that the way to win the center is to tack to the center.
My biggest disappointment is it appears the huge numbers of youthful voters Obama was successful in bringing into the political process will probably be turned off for years, if not decades.
That does not bode well for any "hope" or "change" . . . .
UPDATE: Naomi Klein weighs in . . . .
(Cross-posted from Moved to Vancouver)