KERNS: Obama needs to step it up – soon



Bryan Kerns

Really, Mr. President? This is the best you can do?

The Harvard Law and Columbia-educated super nerd who happens to be the president of the United States exhibited one of the worst traits associated with being cerebral – the propensity to say things that one shouldn’t without first processing them through one’s mind.

Undisciplined Obama is Obama at his worst. This was clear last week when the president tried his hand at self-deprecating humor and instead ended up on the receiving end of a rebuke from the leadership of the Special Olympics.

It’s time that the president gets his head in the game. Vice President Joe Biden is the only politician whose gaffes ever seem to work out to his advantage, and even then, it’s not a good example to follow.

Although a throwaway remark made on the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” isn’t likely to bring down the Obama presidency, an inability to gain message traction day in and day out certainly will.

The Congressional leadership has been willing to tell the president what they think is wrong with his proposals in very clear and loud ways. The president’s advisers go onto the Sunday shows and attempt to reassure the country that the policies Obama has proffered will be successful but offer little in the way of candid assessment of how things are going at this point in time.

The banal platitudes of politics simply don’t work during a once-in-a-century economic crisis. Even an editorial page as progressive as the New York Times has begun to question whether Obama’s got the chutzpah to be a successful president at a time like this.

There’s a great deal of uncertainty in the air and the adept and savvy political intellects are sensing the growing populist sentiment and seeing how it could lead to an Obama immolation. Not to set off any premature alarms about bread riots and guillotines, but populism left unchecked has in the past led to vicious fascism.

There’s also a counter-current that says that the talking heads are the ones dictating what people think is actually going on and that Obama is actually being given his chance to lead the country in the right direction.

Well, folks, do I have some anecdotal news for you: my grandmother switched her insurance from AIG to Allstate last week out of anger over the executive bonuses. Now, my grandmother’s outrage may not necessarily translate into a full-throated march on the White House, but she’s one aggrieved citizen who, in most cases, would never have thought to do such a thing. What does that say?

The president has not yet lost his way and hopefully he is perceptive enough to realize that he can only get so far with appearances on Jay Leno.

He ought to take the next opportunity he has to show legitimate outrage about a major incidence of Wall Street excess and demand the functional and legal equivalent of public hangings – and then tell the American people that such punitive actions would never solve any real problems, that it would merely be political theatre.

The step after that is the hardest. Once you tell everyone that punitive measures are political spectrum, you need to prove to them that your ideas work and that they can fix the problems we have. Doing that and communicating it effectively has been a challenge for even the finest politicians this country has produced.

Whether Barack Obama is among them remains to be seen. He’s only got so much time.


Bryan Kerns is a sophomore honors and humanities major from Drexel Hill, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].