Guest Opinion: Capitol Report with Steve Adubato: Obama’s Brand Takes Big Hit

President Obama is a much better candidate and campaigner than he is a Chief Executive

I’m as happy as anyone that the federal government has averted a debt crisis which had the potential of wreaking economic havoc, not only on Wall Street, but on Main Street. If this deal to raise the debt limit had failed, the feds would have had some tough choices to make about who to pay and who to stiff. Do you pay military employees, or senior citizens waiting for a social security check? I wouldn’t want to have to make that call.

Hopefully, we have also averted a downgrade in the federal government’s bond rating, which has a huge impact on our ability to borrow money. But even though things could have been worse, there are no real winners in any of this. For me, one of the most disappointing story lines involved President Barack Obama. I voted for Obama. I was taken in by his charismatic oratory and his promise of reform in Washington and bringing “change” to the beltway. I was really hopeful, as were millions of other Americans.

But here’s the thing about the President that’s become painfully clear, particularly in the debt crisis. He is a much better political candidate and campaigner than he is a Chief Executive. My sense is that Obama has convinced himself that if he can give just one more speech, or hold one more press conference, he can persuade others to go along with him. But that’s not the way negotiating works. Great negotiators, in fact great leaders, get their hands dirty. They don’t delegate the details of a deal, they get in there. They personally pick up the phone and have face to face meetings on a regular basis at all hours of the night to get reluctant members of Congress to go along.

The funny thing about Obama’s charisma — it translated well in big crowds and some of those who love him still do. But one-on-one with a reluctant audience, he’s just not that good. Sure he’s charming and dynamic, but it seems he lacks real leadership skills when it comes to governing. He’s great on the promise of what’s possible, but weak on the execution of getting it done. Remember the healthcare debate? He gave speech after speech, lecture after lecture, until most people were totally confused as to what the hell he was talking about.

I still like Obama and I’m not a big fan of the Republicans in Congress, particularly those who have becomes captives of the Tea Party, who seem clueless about the dangers of shutting down government and throwing caution to the wind. But Obama’s brand and the stakes for him are much higher than they are for John Boehner and the Tea Party. Obama is the leader of the free world. He is our leader. His weaknesses as a leader are that much more glaring. Sure he’s a superstar in the eyes of many. Some even still call him a “rock star.” But while I love Springsteen and Bono, when they talk politics I don’t take them very seriously. We don’t need a rock star in the White House. We need a chief executive who knows how to lead. Who’s willing to fight and occasionally threaten — especially if he can back it up. A leader is not afraid of pissing people off if he has to. Simply put, no one really seems afraid of Barack Obama or what he might do or not do. That’s not a good thing in a leader, especially in a rough, tough, nasty negotiation. Frankly, we need a president who’s willing to get his hands dirty, and I don’t think that’s the job Barack Obama signed up for.

That’s just my opinion. What’s yours? Write to me at

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