Empty Chair Leadership: Obama's History of Shirking Duty
Among historians and political scientists, there are long-running debates on presidential greatness, how to define it, and how it is achieved. One thing is for certain: the measure of a president is defined by the greatness of the events and challenges that he faces while in office. Some presidents rise to these challenges and enter the pantheon of greatness. Other presidents choose the wrong path or lack the vision to recognize the moment and are relegated to historical mediocrity or worse.
It would be easy to define the great challenge of Barack Obama's presidency as restoring America's economy, but that is too simplistic a view. The great challenge of the Obama presidency is staving off American decline.
The post-Cold War world entered a period of American predominance as the sole superpower, but things have changed since then. The rise of Russia and China and their attempts to expand their economic and political spheres of influence threaten America's global leadership role. The Arab Spring sweeping the Middle East is leading to a resurgent Islamic supremacist movement that is virulently anti-American in its values and worldview.
What the nation currently faces is a world that views us both economically and in international relations as a weak and declining power, like the last days of the western Roman Empire. If America fails to turn around its economic situation and its dominance in international relations, a power vacuum will be created which nations such as Russia and China will swoop in to fill. Emboldened Islamists will put huge swaths of the globe under the oppression of sharia law.
This year's presidential election marks a precipice on which the future of the world depends. On one side sits a future with America preeminent, protecting the delicate flame of liberty and justice. On the other side sits an America whose greatness is but a distant memory, where we are passive observers as the slow tide of oppression subjugates the globe.
Do we trust President Obama to be the man to meet this moment in our history?
According to James Cannon, "[t]he [ancient] Greeks believed that character was formed in part by fate and in part by parental training, and that character was exemplified not only by acts of bravery in battle but in the habits of daily conduct."
The habits of President Barack Obama's daily conduct paint a long and disturbing picture of the character of the man. Clint Eastwood was right: at every step of the way, when Barack Obama's leadership has been needed, he has been absent.
While president of the Harvard Law review and later a lecturer on constitutional law at the prestigious University of Chicago Law School, Obama had no scholarly articles authored under his name.
Also while at the University of Chicago, Obama was completely disengaged intellectually, as Senior Lecturer Richard Epstein told the Washington Examiner. "Obama, Epstein said, 'did the minimal amount of work to get through. No one remembers him. He was not a participant in luncheons or workshops. He was here and gone.'"
This pattern of behavior continued while Obama was a state senator in Illinois, but at least during that time he showed up and voted "present" 129 times.
For a man with presidential ambitions but a weak resume, surely Obama would buckle down and really apply himself as a U.S. senator. The Washington Examiner once again points out the empty chair: "And during his lone term as a U.S. senator, according to Gov Track.us: "From Jan 2005 to Oct 2008, Obama missed 314 of 1300 recorded or roll call votes, which is 24.0%. This is worse than the median of 2.4%."
But surely once he attained the most powerful job in the world, he would keep a firm hand on the wheel. Right?
The Government Accountability Institute points out a startling fact: from January 23, 2009 until May 31, 2012, President Obama was in office for 1,225 days and only attended 536 presidential daily briefs. This is a shockingly anemic 43.8% attendance record. The Obama administration contends that holding such meetings is not important, that the president simply reads his PDB when there is no meeting. But is reading the document the same thing?
According to former CIA Director Michael Hayden, the PDB for President George W. Bush was typically 15 pages in length, included two magazine-sized weekly supplements, and was so important that from February 15, 2001 on, whenever the president traveled, he took a briefer with the PDB with him wherever he went. Hayden emphasized to Newsmax the importance of the personal briefings:
"The briefings of Bush were incredibly interactive," Hayden says. "There was rich give and take, so that not only did the president get the advantage of knowing the analysts' innermost thoughts, but they [the analysts] also were able to leave the room understanding what the president believed he needed in order to make the kind of decisions he had to make."
Isn't protecting the safety and security of the United States and its citizens both here and abroad the most important job of the federal government?
What has President Obama been doing instead of attending to his daily national security briefing? Passing the hat and shaking down donors at an astonishing rate.
According to CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller, President Obama has held 208 fundraisers since filing papers for re-election, including 141 so far in 2012. For comparison's sake, President George W. Bush, who won a narrow election in 2000 to become president and was facing a tough re-election campaign, attended a total of 97 fundraisers from May 2003 until November 2004.
And that doesn't even account for Obama's additional time spent campaigning. What is truly stunning is how engaged President Obama is on fundraising when he appears so disengaged on national security and foreign policy.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus estimated in a Politico op-ed that the average fundraiser takes "two hours out of the president's schedule." That means that if we use the two-hour figure, the president has devoted 416 hours to re-election fundraisers since announcing his re-election campaign. That is over ten 40-hour work weeks or, put another way, two and a half months of work. With his 141 fundraisers in 2012 alone, that means approximately 282 hours, or just over seven work weeks, lost to fundraising.
It is time for someone else to fill the empty chair in the Oval Office, and to lead America out of its spiral of decline.