In HughS’s previous post on the impending crackup of the Obama Administration, he quotes Roger Simon who observes, “Barack Obama has never had to deal with any personal adversity in his adult life.”
That’s not entirely true, and what is most revealing about Barack Obama is how he has handled past challenges and failures.
Barack Obama failed as a community organizer. After spending three years in the Altgeld Gardens community in Chicago, with only a handful of victories to show for his organizing efforts, Obama pulled out of community organizing and entered Harvard Law School in 1988, eventually becoming President of the Harvard Law Review in 1990 and earning his law degree in 1991.
After becoming not just the President, but the first African-American President of the Harvard Law Review, a literary agent named Jane Dystel contacted Obama after reading a favorable piece about him in the New York Times. Dystel convinced Simon and Schuster to advance Obama $125,000 in exchange for what Dystel promised would be a fascinating memoir about a young mixed race boy who beat the odds and became one of the Ivy League’s bright lights. After working for several years, Obama utterly failed to produce anything resembling an acceptable manuscript, and his contract was cancelled. Yet just a few years later (and coincident with the beginning of a very close relationship with Bill Ayers, who is also an accomplished author) Obama managed to produce the astoundingly good memoir “Dreams of My Father.”
Obama formally entered politics in 1996, running for the Illinois State Senate. With the help of powerful allies in the Chicago political machine, he employed the extremely clever tactic of challenging the validity of signatures on the petitions that placed his three challengers on the ballot:
As a community organizer, he had helped register thousands of voters. But when it came time to run for office, he employed Chicago rules to invalidate the voting petition signatures of three of his challengers.
The move denied each of them, including incumbent Alice Palmer, a longtime Chicago activist, a place on the ballot. It cleared the way for Obama to run unopposed on the Democratic ticket in a heavily Democrat district.
Obama easily won that election. But when he challenged incumbent Bobby Rush for his seat in the US House of Representatives in 2000, Obama suffered an embarrassing defeat. Obama’s Harvard-bred “golden boy” image was successfully used against him by Rush, whose campaign portrayed Obama as “the white man in blackface in our community.”
After his defeat by Bobby Rush, Obama worked very hard to reconnect with the mostly Black residents of the poor Chicago neighborhoods that he represented in the Illinois State Senate. Much of his rehabilitation came about as a result of his renewed involvement with Trinity United Church of Christ and its powerful leader, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In 2002, Democrats won control of the Illinois legislature, and the new Senate Majority leader, Emil Jones, took a liking to Obama:
Republicans controlled the Illinois General Assembly for six years of Obama’s seven-year tenure. Each session, Obama backed legislation that went nowhere; bill after bill died in committee. During those six years, Obama, too, would have had difficulty naming any legislative achievements.
… Several months before Obama announced his U.S. Senate bid, [Emil] Jones called his old friend Cliff Kelley, a former Chicago alderman who now hosts the city’s most popular black call-in radio program.
I called Kelley last week and he recollected the private conversation as follows:
“He said, ‘Cliff, I’m gonna make me a U.S. Senator.'”
“Oh, you are? Who might that be?”
Jones appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills.
“I took all the beatings and insults and endured all the racist comments over the years from nasty Republican committee chairmen,” State Senator Rickey Hendon, the original sponsor of landmark racial profiling and videotaped confession legislation yanked away by Jones and given to Obama, complained to me at the time. “Barack didn’t have to endure any of it, yet, in the end, he got all the credit.
“I don’t consider it bill jacking,” Hendon told me. “But no one wants to carry the ball 99 yards all the way to the one-yard line, and then give it to the halfback who gets all the credit and the stats in the record book.”
During his seventh and final year in the state Senate, Obama’s stats soared. He sponsored a whopping 26 bills passed into law — including many he now cites in his presidential campaign when attacked as inexperienced.
It was a stunning achievement that started him on the path of national politics — and he couldn’t have done it without Jones.
And there you have it. Barack Obama has routinely dealt with adversity in one of two ways: 1) by dropping out and refocusing his efforts on endeavors where he had already achieved a track record of success, or 2) surrounding himself with “guardian angels” who could do most of the heavy lifting for him, thereby enabling him to easily achieve one level of success after another.
What Barack Obama obviously, sorely, lacks is meaningful experience as a leader. As much as a dislike Bill Clinton, I have no problem acknowledging what made him an effective President. During his twelve years as governor of Arkansas, Clinton learned the art of negotiation and compromise. Clinton was a shrewd politician and worked steadily to keep as much political power as he could — witness his continued attacks (with the aid of the mainstream press) against Newt Gingrich. Yet when it came to government policies, Clinton more often than not followed the lead of the Republican-controlled Congress. His willingness to work with Republicans angered the far Left, but probably contributed more than anything to his re-election in 1996.
In contrast, Barack Obama still appears to be an over-educated ideologue, firmly convinced that he and his acolytes know far better than the great unwashed masses what is best for us. After the defeat of
Marsha Martha Coakley in “Massachusettes” earlier this week, President Obama told George Stephanopolous, “…I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are and why we have to make sure those institutions are matching up with those values.”
Notice the language: “speaking directly to the American people,” not “listening to the American people.” Even now, Obama appears anxious to enact new programs designed to punish the banking industry at a time when economic recession has already forced lending down to all-time lows — a sad example of misguided populism that could only be dreamed up by elites who have spent most of their working years insulated from reality behind ivy-covered stone walls, analyzing problems instead of actually solving them.
Unfortunately, Barack Obama’s tried and true technique for solving problems seems to be picking up the phone and looking for someone to do a favor for him. He has little experience negotiating, and seems to have only paid attention to others when he was interested in using their advice to improve his political fortunes. Leaders who do not listen do not know how to lead. And leaders who do not know how to lead are usually very quickly replaced.