On issue after issue, Barack Obama has shown a strong reluctance to challenge
established thinking and to confront powerful interests. Just the opposite. He
instinctively tips his hat to every establishment he encounters -- be it Wall
Street, the military, the intelligence community, or the health care industry.
He is little more aggressive in pressing Congress. Obama is demonstrably
someone whose loud bark is not followed but much bite. Retreat from positions
boldly declared has become the hallmark of his administration. At times, the
retreat follows brief skirmishes. At other times, it is preemptive --
prompted by skirmishes in the president's own mind.
This is the singular Obama style evident on major domestic issues. The
process begins with a firm statement of the problem, a clarion call for action,
and a pledge to force change. Then, there is the period of eerie calm -- no
plan is unveiled, no campaign strategy executed. There ensues an opaque,
slow-motion free-for-all involving a fractured Congress, advocates, lobbies and
the media with the White House staff operating in the shadows behind the scenes.
Among the protagonists are the very parties that are the cause of the problem.
The very idea of a compelling national interest gets lost in the melee. Obama
makes brief public appearances punctuated by further
proclamations of the imperative to act, still without any specifics or sustained
effort. Whatever comes out of this muddle is declared historic and promising.
Thus the ramshackle approach taken toward the financial crisis.