WaPo Columnist: Time for Obama to Act Like a President

On Monday, NewsBusters asked, "How do you know when an extraordinarily liberal politician is failing badly?"

Tuesday's answer is: When an extraordinarily liberal journalist like the Washington Post's Richard Cohen not only notices, but is willing to write about it AND get his critique published.

As if coordinated, Cohen followed Newsweek columnist Howard Fineman's "The Limits of Charisma: Mr. President, Please Stay Off TV" with a well-timed smackdown of his own called "Time to Act Like a President":

Sooner or later it is going to occur to Barack Obama that he is the president of the United States. As of yet, though, he does not act that way, appearing promiscuously on television and granting interviews like the presidential candidate he no longer is. The election has been held, but the campaign goes on and on. The candidate has yet to become commander in chief.  [...]

The trouble with Obama is that he gets into the moment and means what he says for that moment only. He meant what he said when he called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" -- and now is not necessarily so sure. He meant what he said about the public option in his health-care plan -- and then again maybe not. He would not prosecute CIA agents for getting rough with detainees -- and then again maybe he would.

Most tellingly, he gave Congress an August deadline for passage of health-care legislation -- "Now, if there are no deadlines, nothing gets done in this town . . . " -- and then let it pass. It seemed not to occur to Obama that a deadline comes with a consequence -- meet it or else.

Obama lost credibility with his deadline-that-never-was, and now he threatens to lose some more with his posturing toward Iran. He has gotten into a demeaning dialogue with Ahmadinejad, an accomplished liar. (The next day, the Iranian used a news conference to counter Obama and, days later, Iran tested some intermediate-range missiles.) Obama is our version of a Supreme Leader, not given to making idle threats, setting idle deadlines, reversing course on momentous issues, creating a TV crisis where none existed or, unbelievably, pitching Chicago for the 2016 Olympics. Obama's the president. Time he understood that.

Actually, Richard, the time to understand someone's qualifications is during the campaign NOT after you aided and abetted his march to the White House.

For instance, on Election Day 2008, Cohen wrote:

Barack Obama is often called a transformational figure, and this election, it then follows, is a transformational one. I beg to quibble. Barack Obama is a confirmational figure, and this election confirms what has been gradually occurring in American society ever since that July day when Johnson virtually outlawed most forms of racial segregation in America. We've been transforming ever since. 

My colleague David Broder dates to Dec. 8, 2007, the moment he knew "this presidential campaign was going to be the best" he'd ever covered. That was when about 18,000 people crammed into Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines to see Obama and Oprah Winfrey, and you knew, if you were there -- and I was -- that something momentous was happening. There, on the stage, were Obama, his wife, Michelle, and Winfrey. I turned to my friend Joe Klein of Time magazine and said we were immeasurably lucky. We were witnessing history being made. 

Maybe if so-called journalists like Broder, Cohen, and Klein were less concerned with the color of candidate Obama's skin than what his qualifications were to be the most powerful political figure in the world, we wouldn't now have in the White House a man that is still campaigning because he doesn't know HOW to be president.

Alas, that didn't matter to folks like Cohen then who concluded his November 3, 2008, column: "My fellow Americans, we have overcome."

Have we, Richard? Are race relations better in America today as a result of what happened the last election?

More importantly, given the empty suit now residing in the Oval Office -- an emptiness you finally are starting to notice!!! -- was your complicity in getting him elected worth it?

That asked, with Cohen and Fineman finally admitting Obama isn't wearing any clothing, one has to wonder "Who's next?"

Washington Post Richard Cohen
Noel Sheppard's picture

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