Obama's Strategy? He Doesn't Have One

One thing stands out in my mind about President Obama's so-called "budget strategy."  He doesn't have one.  You can see evidence of Mr. Obama's strategic vacuum in everything he does.  Take the much ballyhooed budget speech he gave yesterday at George Washington University, for example.  It contradicts the message he delivered as a part of his 10-year budget just a few short weeks ago.  All of the evidence points to the fact that Obama's "budget strategy" is simply a kneejerk reaction to Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisconsin) budget proposal which really does reflect strategic thinking.  It's been said, and it's true, that talk is cheap.  Talk seems to be the only arrow in Mr. Obama's quiver. 

The president's speech droned on for about an hour and when it was over, the most memorable thing about it was its lack of specificity.  The phrase "my plan," which he used repeatedly is not a substitute for specifics, and the examples he used to support his "plan" were woefully inadequate.  Take infrastructure spending, for instance.  The president explained that he would spend on infrastructure.  Who's against that?  No one.  Problem is, infrastructure spending was supposed to be the primary focus of his stimulus package.  Two years ago, we were told about the "shovel-ready projects" that would get us out of the Great Recession and fix our crumbling roads and bridges in the process.  Two years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, what does the record show?  We still have crumbling roads and bridges, precious little construction work, and more deficits and debt than any generation of Americans has ever seen with more to come.  That's not strategy.  It's business as usual.  Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, "The quality of thinking that got us here won't get us out of here."

If the president had a strategy for dealing with our deficit and debt problems, he would have presented it long ago -- in detail.  He could have used his budget commission's plan to get our fiscal house in order as the launching pad to introduce his strategy, and he would have if he had one.  President Obama's silence at that critical moment was deafening, and yesterday's Johnny-come-lately gimmick was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the appearance of incompetence -- a trick that is becoming increasingly difficult for him to pull off even among his once ardent supporters.  The president's "plan" to call on legislators to find a solution to our deficit and debt problems by the end of June a week after Rep. Ryan submitted his plan to the House of Representatives is laughable.  Again, that's not strategy.  It's just empty words.

Mr. Obama's strategic void has been on display in the Middle East since the Arab Spring began in January.  For instance, consider Egypt.  Obama stood with our long-time ally, Hosni Mubarak, and then he didn't.  Then he stood with him again until the political winds shifted, at which point Obama announced that it was time for Mr. Mubarak to go.  Our president has demonstrated the same lack of strategic resolve on matters related to Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.  Our president's inability to grasp strategic concepts is so pervasive that the King of Saudi Arabia said recently that President Obama is a threat to Saudi Arabia's internal security.  I think he's a threat to our internal security as well.

Mr. Obama did have a strategy for getting elected to the highest office in the land, but it wasn't his.  Whose plan it was remains a mystery, as does almost everything else about our president, from the hospital where he was born to his SAT and LSAT scores to his academic performance records to his golf handicap.  Even so, the facts are beginning to emerge.  Take his first autobiography, for example.  Jack Cashill's Deconstructing Obama suggests strongly that Obama didn't write it and that Bill Ayers probably did. 

It's looking a lot like someone or some group carefully orchestrated a comprehensive strategy to take an obscure Illinois lawyer specializing in community organizing from nowhere to the White House.  That plan will go down in the annals of history as a strategic masterpiece -- a stroke of genius.  No one deft enough to devise a scheme for Obama's political ascension could be so strategically clumsy in office. 

A few days ago, Mort Zuckerman, a publishing and real estate magnate, said on CNBC that Donald Trump's autobiography would be the greatest love story ever told.  Mr. Trump wants to be president, and he's distancing himself from other wannabes by calling into question Mr. Obama's place of birth.  I don't support Trump's candidacy, but I applaud his willingness to challenge Mr. Obama to come clean and divulge the facts.  That's something Republican stalwarts haven't done; it's something the mainstream media failed to do; and it's something ordinary citizens need to know.  The unraveling of Mr. Obama's past will be interesting to say the least, but this much is certain already.  Barack Obama, a.k.a Barry Soetoro, is not a strategist.  At best, he's a skillful opportunist.

Neil Snyder has a Ph.D. degree in strategic management and taught leadership and strategy at the University of Virginia for 25 years.  He retired from UVA in 2004 and is currently the Ralph A. Beeton Professor Emeritus at UVA.  His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily.
One thing stands out in my mind about President Obama's so-called "budget strategy."  He doesn't have one.  You can see evidence of Mr. Obama's strategic vacuum in everything he does.  Take the much ballyhooed budget speech he gave yesterday at George Washington University, for example.  It contradicts the message he delivered as a part of his 10-year budget just a few short weeks ago.  All of the evidence points to the fact that Obama's "budget strategy" is simply a kneejerk reaction to Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisconsin) budget proposal which really does reflect strategic thinking.  It's been said, and it's true, that talk is cheap.  Talk seems to be the only arrow in Mr. Obama's quiver. 

The president's speech droned on for about an hour and when it was over, the most memorable thing about it was its lack of specificity.  The phrase "my plan," which he used repeatedly is not a substitute for specifics, and the examples he used to support his "plan" were woefully inadequate.  Take infrastructure spending, for instance.  The president explained that he would spend on infrastructure.  Who's against that?  No one.  Problem is, infrastructure spending was supposed to be the primary focus of his stimulus package.  Two years ago, we were told about the "shovel-ready projects" that would get us out of the Great Recession and fix our crumbling roads and bridges in the process.  Two years and hundreds of billions of dollars later, what does the record show?  We still have crumbling roads and bridges, precious little construction work, and more deficits and debt than any generation of Americans has ever seen with more to come.  That's not strategy.  It's business as usual.  Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, "The quality of thinking that got us here won't get us out of here."

If the president had a strategy for dealing with our deficit and debt problems, he would have presented it long ago -- in detail.  He could have used his budget commission's plan to get our fiscal house in order as the launching pad to introduce his strategy, and he would have if he had one.  President Obama's silence at that critical moment was deafening, and yesterday's Johnny-come-lately gimmick was nothing more than an attempt to avoid the appearance of incompetence -- a trick that is becoming increasingly difficult for him to pull off even among his once ardent supporters.  The president's "plan" to call on legislators to find a solution to our deficit and debt problems by the end of June a week after Rep. Ryan submitted his plan to the House of Representatives is laughable.  Again, that's not strategy.  It's just empty words.

Mr. Obama's strategic void has been on display in the Middle East since the Arab Spring began in January.  For instance, consider Egypt.  Obama stood with our long-time ally, Hosni Mubarak, and then he didn't.  Then he stood with him again until the political winds shifted, at which point Obama announced that it was time for Mr. Mubarak to go.  Our president has demonstrated the same lack of strategic resolve on matters related to Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.  Our president's inability to grasp strategic concepts is so pervasive that the King of Saudi Arabia said recently that President Obama is a threat to Saudi Arabia's internal security.  I think he's a threat to our internal security as well.

Mr. Obama did have a strategy for getting elected to the highest office in the land, but it wasn't his.  Whose plan it was remains a mystery, as does almost everything else about our president, from the hospital where he was born to his SAT and LSAT scores to his academic performance records to his golf handicap.  Even so, the facts are beginning to emerge.  Take his first autobiography, for example.  Jack Cashill's Deconstructing Obama suggests strongly that Obama didn't write it and that Bill Ayers probably did. 

It's looking a lot like someone or some group carefully orchestrated a comprehensive strategy to take an obscure Illinois lawyer specializing in community organizing from nowhere to the White House.  That plan will go down in the annals of history as a strategic masterpiece -- a stroke of genius.  No one deft enough to devise a scheme for Obama's political ascension could be so strategically clumsy in office. 

A few days ago, Mort Zuckerman, a publishing and real estate magnate, said on CNBC that Donald Trump's autobiography would be the greatest love story ever told.  Mr. Trump wants to be president, and he's distancing himself from other wannabes by calling into question Mr. Obama's place of birth.  I don't support Trump's candidacy, but I applaud his willingness to challenge Mr. Obama to come clean and divulge the facts.  That's something Republican stalwarts haven't done; it's something the mainstream media failed to do; and it's something ordinary citizens need to know.  The unraveling of Mr. Obama's past will be interesting to say the least, but this much is certain already.  Barack Obama, a.k.a Barry Soetoro, is not a strategist.  At best, he's a skillful opportunist.

Neil Snyder has a Ph.D. degree in strategic management and taught leadership and strategy at the University of Virginia for 25 years.  He retired from UVA in 2004 and is currently the Ralph A. Beeton Professor Emeritus at UVA.  His blog, SnyderTalk.com, is posted daily.