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The economy is a mess, unemployment far too high, Washington paralyzed. What's a president to say?
Liberals have grown frustrated with Obama, and have been knocking him increasingly for his accommodating approach. They'd like to hear him say that the nation's leading task is creating jobs, not cutting the deficit; and they'd like him to assail the Republicans who have shown an unwillingness to budge on economic issues.
White House aides are promising a more confrontational Obama this week. "His strategy no longer turns on coaxing Republican leaders," the New York Times reports this morning. "It turns, instead, on his ability to leverage public opinion."
“Americans aren’t quite sure what the grand vision of Barack Obama really is," presidential historian Douglas Brinkley tells Politico today. “FDR had the New Deal, JFK had The New Frontier, Reagan had Morning in America, George W. Bush had compassionate conservatism and the War on Terror. What does Obama have? People don’t need to agree with you, but they need to understand what you stand for so they can decide to be for or against you.”
A former adviser to Hillary Clinton observes in the same Politico story that Obama didn't run for president on his ideology so much as on his compelling biography. "Nobody cares about his biography anymore, so what does he fall back on?” the adviser asks.
Obama's campaign motto—hope and change—isn't a governing philosophy. When he took office, "Yes, we can" quickly changed into "Guess we can't." His ideology has often seemed to be "Compromise, at all costs."
"Thus far President Obama has shown a staggering inability to use the bully pulpit in a way that demonstrates real courage and conviction," a letter-writer observed in the Times yesterday. "It's time to show us what you've got, Mr. President, or go home."