The other day I tweeted:
“Love Traister’s writing http://t.co/GPYXI1X but it misses key #leadership lesson: executive responsibility C gets, O doesn’t.”
I was immediately flooded with retweets and comments both there and on my Facebook page. Some disagreed but most concurred–strongly. As I see a preponderance of the comments on the Times post do.
Have you read this article? What are your thoughts?
In case you didn’t see it yet, the article referenced is a New York Times Magazine piece speculating “What Would Hillary Clinton Have Done?” by one of my favorite feminist writers, Rebecca Traister. The intent of the article was to suggest people stop speculating, whereupon she speculates that there would have been little difference because the two candidates were both center-right in political philosophy.
I have to disagree strongly with my friend Traister this time. Full disclosure: she interviewed me and quoted me extensively in her book Big Girls Don’t Cry, which analyzes Clinton’s run for the presidency and chronicles Traister’s own slow shift from supporting Obama to Clinton as she considered the gender, racial, and socio-political implications of her voting choices.
So when I received the Politico Arena question, the answer came easily. Their query was: Is President Obama vindicated on Libya?
The answer to the question, it seems to me, is rooted in the same missing piece of analysis as that in Traister’s article. Executive leadership requires setting an agenda, having a strongly articulated point of view and teaching/arguing/inspiring/politicking/leading the people and then the Congress to it.
That is something Clinton understands because of her time in the White House and lengthier experience in national political leadership in general. These toughened her up for the fray. It taught her valuable lessons in how to use diplomacy in the service of an authentic agenda. It’s a quality that can surely be learned, but Obama seems to shrink from the executive role rather than embracing it. His emphasis on “the deal” and penchant for striking pre-emptive bargains against himself have seriously diminished his leadership stature. More troubling, it has given the Republicans way more campaign fodder than they deserve–bereft as they are of caring about anything beyond lining their own cronies’ pockets so they can hold onto their threadbare political power.
I do think getting Qadhafi out of power is a net positive for Obama (though one could argue even here that Clinton is the strength behind the president’s victory). But until he gives America a new economic vision and jobs agenda, I’m afraid the benefit to his presidency will be short lived.