A few posts ago, I asked how you rate President Obama’s leadership on health care reform.

There were some intriguing responses. I said at the time that I agreed with Jeff Friedman, who replied via Facebook:

As seems to be the case with almost every issue he tackles, his heart is in the right place, but he doesn’t seem to have the stomach for a good, old fashioned street fight. And, unfortunately, until he quits trying to be Conciliator-in-Chief and starts to tackle the Republicans and the Blue Cross, I mean the Blue Dog, Democrats head on, most of his positive agenda for the country is going to fall by the wayside. If only he had the stubborn, confrontational approach for his good ideas that George W. Bush had for his horrible ones.

Still, I had the audacity to hope that Obama would gain strength in his role and become increasingly willing to put forth bold initiatives to solve problems such as the 40 million Americans lacking health insurance and many millions more teetering on the brink of losing it along with their jobs or being so underinsured they can’t afford primary or preventive care.

I take to heart the position of smart young author Courtney Martin (please read her Washington Post column about this topic here and vote for her to be their next new pundit) that Obama is exercising a significant kind of leadership when he says citizens must lead ourselves by participating in the process not just during elections, but every day.

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Guest post by regular contributor Lee Reid Taylor.

Barack Obama and the world woke up Friday morning to the unexpected news that the president had received the Nobel Peace Prize. Women’s responses to the announcement ran the gamut: from accolades, to shock and even disbelief. Some question whether the award is premature, while others believe it is a call for Obama to act on his political oratory of peace.

Obama is the third sitting president, following Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, to receive the honor. The first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize was a woman, Bertha von Suttner, in 1901. Female recipients of the Peace Prize include: Jane Addams, Ayn San Suu Kii, Betty Williams, and Wangari Maathai (just to name a few). Of the ninety-six Nobel Peace Prizes awarded, only nineteen were given to women. The fact that Obama is now a recipient leads some to ask, “Why him, and why now?”

Women have different interpretations of why this award was given and what impact it will have on the president’s policies.

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As thrilled as I am that the world has such a positive view of Obama, for him to be given the Nobel Peace Prize at this stage of this presidency is premature adulation.

I was at my computer frantically trying to finish a book chapter in the wee hours this morning when I noticed a tweet saying Obama had won the Nobel. I thought it was one of those Twitter rumors that spread like wildfire, but it piqued my interest enough that I clicked BBC, CNN, and AP until I was convinced this was no hoax.

My first reaction was a feeling in the pit of my stomach that winning this global prize so soon on his presidency would be a political loss at home. It’s not going to help him pass health care, and there’s going to be a lot of skepticism—not just from the right–about whether he’s earned such an honor yet. Because he hasn’t, really.

And I hope there is never a hint that any kind of campaign was waged for him to receive the prize, for that would devastate his standing and sully the honor.

No matter about any of that, I still see a hugely important message to America in this award. It starts with “Thank you.” The same “breathing out” moment many of us had when Obama won the election reverberated around the globe, and it was as much about what a bad leader George Bush was on the world stage as how good Obama might be. So the promise of Obama is almost as important as the performance.

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September 3 should become a special day on women’s calendar, just as Women’s Equality Day became a special day in honor of women’s voting rights. For the first time ever, two of the three nightly major network newscasts will be anchored by women. ABC Nightly News has announced that Diane Sawyer, who has anchored “Good…

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Obama’s “Promoting Strong Fathers” speech and town hall last week was not just great role modeling and a politically smart thing to do, it had some very poignant moments that scratched the surface, albeit gently, of the president’s quest to know his father. He came to terms with that missing piece of his own identity long ago, as chronicled in his book, Dreams of My Father.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel sadness in my heart when he talked about his absent father, even as he expressed appreciation for his mother’s struggles and how his loving grandparents cared for him.

[caption id="attachment_3665" align="aligncenter" width="431" caption="L-R: Gloria, Deborah, Kristal, Courtney"][/caption]

I was watching the town hall because fathers were much on my mind as I prepared for yesterday’s “Dads, Dudes and Doing It” panel, along with WomenGirlsLadies co-panelists, Courtney Martin, Kristal Brent Zook, and Deborah Siegel-Acevedo. Together, we span five decades in age and we speak through both gender and generational lens.

[caption id="attachment_3666" align="alignleft" width="269" caption="My friends called my father "Big Max" because it described both his height--6' 3"--and his personality"][/caption]

We had a lot of fun as we always do with our panels, but it was nevertheless emotional for each of us in different ways to be talking about our fathers. I’m the panel’s senior citizen, and I was missing my daddy who died almost 15 years ago. I speculated that he never connected his personal declaration that his daughters could do “anything their pretty little heads desire” with the political movement of women that a decade or two later would turn the political system upside down to make sure we actually could aspire without legal impediment to whatever heights we wanted.

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I’ve often written about what I like to call Obama’s leadership leaps. The president has a unique capacity to catch the wave of events, especially controversial ones, and turn them into amazing rhetorical moments in which he teaches and leads people to their higher selves.

Once again in the last two days, I’ve been profoundly moved by the brilliant leadership leap the president showed the world during his visit to Muslim countries. It was the same kind of action he took when he spoke on race during last year’s presidential primary after controversy fomented by his former pastor threatened to deep-six his quest for the Oval Office.

He knows how to do this on the toughest and most seemingly intractable of issues; his sense of timing and tone has usually been impeccable.

That’s why I ask this leadership question today: why in the world does Obama not take the leadership leap when it comes to advocating simple justice for women?

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Early this morning my daughter called to ask me what I thought about President Barack Obama’s comments about abortion yesterday in his commencement address at Notre Dame. She worried he’d been too soft and that by not stating his moral support for reproductive rights had instead signaled that he would not stand firm on policy related to abortion. Take a look at what he said and tell me what you think:

I replied to her that it was as good as we’d get from Obama, who clearly wants everyone to get along and doesn’t like confrontation. I wish he’d wax as eloquently about sexism and women’s human rights as he did about racism during his campaign. The controversy about race ignited by statements Obama’s minister made had threatened to be as divisive as the one he confronted at the Catholic university, and he used the first occasion to teach about race as well as to “tamp down the anger” as he has said he wants to do with regard to abortion. The disappointment for me was that he failed to elevate women’s reproductive self-determination to a similar moral high ground.

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Tired of the routine 100 days analyses? Salon asked a wildly diverse compendium of opinionated pontificators, including me, to grade the president’s foreign policy, economic policy, and overall performance. Oh, in 200 words. Check ’em out.

How do you grade him? Please share your thoughts by clicking on comments below Here’s the report card I sent to Salon; they cut my last, and best (IMHO), paragraph:

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Really I’m not single-minded.

I watched every minute of President Obama’s 100 Days Press Conference (transcript here). I was enchanted by the reporter who asked Obama what had “enchanted, troubled, surprised, and humbled” him since taking office. Even though a quick wit said that sounded like a Facebook quiz, I thought it livened up the other, more predictable questions.

The answer I liked best was what surprised him, as reported in the Los Angeles Times:

“I am surprised, compared to where I started, by the number of critical issues coming to a head all at the same time.” When he first starting running for office, Iraq was dominant. The economy was an issue. “Obviously I did not anticipate the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.” So unlike new administrations that deal with three big issues, he says, his has about eight to address.

It was delivered with a sense of humor, making light of the many problems on his plate and eliciting gentle laughter. The laughter at these events always sounds gentle. No big guffaws. More of a gentlepersonly acknowledgment that something humorous has been said that makes the president more human.

Obama observed that every generation faces challenges and we will meet ours. This reminded me of the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s observation that every generation finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values. That thought was still in my mind when Obama was asked the inevitable torture question and he invoked Winston Churchill’s objections to using torture because it wasn’t in keeping with Britain’s values. Waterboarding is torture, he said, and he acknowledged that the U.S. had waterboarded. This is huge. No compromise there.

I was about to turn into a little puddle of warm butter over this amazing man–his intellect, grasp of the issues, candor, sense of ethics.

But then came this exchange with Ed Henry, and I snapped out of it. Really, I’m not single-minded but old habits die hard, and I couldn’t help but pay special attention:

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My grandmother often repeated the aphorism that charity begins at home. But those living in the White House and Congress just love to tweak tax policy to make charitable giving to causes beyond our doorsteps more complicated. This week President Obama’s 2010 budget plan proposes that allowable charitable tax deductions for those earning more than $250,000 per year be reduced by about 20%.

Since I led nonprofits for 30 years, I can tell you that any time the tax deduction for charitable contributions is decreased, contributions decrease. We’ve tried this before, in the Reagan administration, for example, just to be clear that it’s a bipartisan idea. Maybe that’s why Obama likes it.

At any rate, it was a bad idea then and it’s a bad idea now.

Reactions to taking away tax deductions vary by type of donor.

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