It’s this misplaced trust in elites both outside the White House and within it that seems to prevent Obama from realizing the moment that history has handed to him. Americans are still seething at the bonus-grabbing titans of the bubble and at the public and private institutions that failed to police them. But rather than embrace a unifying vision that could ignite his presidency, Obama shies away from connecting the dots as forcefully and relentlessly as the facts and Americans’ anger demand. . . .
If Obama is to have a truly transformative presidency, there could be no better catalyst than oil. Standard Oil jump-started Progressive Era trust-busting. Sinclair Oil’s kickback-induced leases of Wyoming’s Teapot Dome oilfields in the 1920s led to the first conviction and imprisonment of a presidential cabinet member (Harding’s interior secretary) for a crime committed while in the cabinet. The Arab oil embargo of the early 1970s and the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 sped the conservation movement and search for alternative fuels. The Enron scandal prompted accounting reforms and (short-lived) scrutiny of corporate Ponzi schemes.
This all adds up to a Teddy Roosevelt pivot-point for Obama, who shares many of that president’s moral and intellectual convictions. But Obama can’t embrace his inner T.R. as long as he’s too in thrall to the supposed wisdom of the nation’s meritocracy, too willing to settle for incremental pragmatism as a goal, and too inhibited by the fine points of Washington policy debates to embrace bold words and bold action. If he is to wield the big stick of reform against BP and the other powerful interests that have ripped us off, he will have to tell the big story with no holds barred.
That doesn’t require a temper tantrum. Nor does it require him to plug the damn hole, which he can’t do anyway. What he does have the power to fix is his presidency. Should he do so, and soon, he’ll still have a real chance to mend a broken country as well. (Frank Rich)
I suppose we can still hope that at some point Obama will wake up. But for now he has presented himself as just another weak Democratic enabler. He's not a bad guy, and I hope he gets his eight years, but he has shown that he hasn't the strength and leadership capacity to do more than mark time while the thugs on the Right consolidate their gains and plan their next advance. He's just another wonkish, weak-kneed Liberal letting the bullies kick sand in his face and thinking it "moderate" virtue to do so. Either that or he must think all that sand in his mouth is just from what's blowing in the wind. It isn't.
I know, Lincoln let McClellan and some of the other bullies of his day push him around at first, but in the end Lincoln woke up and took command. I still believe Obama has the raw potential to be so much more than he's shown. For that reason, I reserve some hope, but if he loses in '12, this will be the reason why: Nice guy, smart guy, but no real capacity for leadership in a moment of historic opportunity.