Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Crown That Fits

A couple of weeks ago, John Hinderaker offered up an audacious suggestion at Power Line. Let's Make Obama King:

Last night Col. Ralph Peters was on Bill O'Reilly's show, talking about Libya. Peters thinks we should act on behalf of the rebels there, but he expressed skepticism that President Obama will ever do anything. "Obama loves the idea of being President," Peters said, "but he can't make a decision."

I think there is a lot of truth to that, even in domestic policy, where Obama has passively deferred to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi on all legislative matters. One can debate whether action is appropriate in Libya or not, but Peters is certainly right when it comes to foreign policy--it is a safe bet that Obama will do nothing, because doing something would require a decision.

That got me thinking: Obama enjoys being president, and he especially treasures the symbolic significance of being the first African-American president. That's how his supporters feel, too. I haven't heard anyone defend his actual performance in a long time, but there is still widespread satisfaction with the symbolic value of his presidency. So why don't we make him king? If being the first African-American president has symbolic value, just think what it would mean for the first King of the United States to be African-American! Plus, Michelle would be a queen and Malia and Sasha would be princesses. How cool would that be?

The way the recent military action against Libya has gone down has provided even more credence to John's idea. When commentators pointed out--as John did in his post--that President Obama had largely outsourced his domestic agenda (specifically the stimulus and health care) to Democratic Congressional leaders, his defenders had explained that such mundane matters did not present enough of a challenge for the brilliance that is Obama. His mind was operating on a plain far above that of mere mortal politicians and would only be adequately engaged by events on a global scale that had important historical implications.

But now that such events are unfolding right in front him, President Obama still appears singularly uninterested. His response to the revolution in Egypt was tepid, indecisive, and uninspiring. In regards to Libya he seems to have again outsourced the heavy lifting, this time to Hillary Clinton and the French. This whole foreign policy/military intervention thing just isn't his bag.

When President Obama was being inaugurated, comparisons were made with Lincoln and FDR. They were ridiculous at the time and appear even more absurd now. The Libya situation has made perfectly clear that when it comes to his duties as Commander in Chief, President Obama shows none of the war time leadership displayed by Lincoln and FDR.

So exactly what part of being president does interest Obama? Unlike Carter, he shows no zeal for understanding the details of the policies being implemented or the legislation being passed (perhaps to his credit). Unlike Clinton, he shows no ability to emotionally connect with the country and show that he shares its concerns. The Gulf oil spill was a perfect example. You know that within hours of the spill Clinton would have been on a beach in Louisiana helping clean oil off a duck with a tear in his eye. And unlike Reagan or the Bushes, he displays little of the strength or resolution that America expects to see when a president elects to send its forces into battle.

So what does he enjoy and excel at as president? Giving speeches and interviews. Appearing in ceremonial capacities to honor individuals or groups (like hosting the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks at the White House). Traveling to foreign countries. Talking about his NCAA basketball brackets.

Seems like the perfect portfolio of duties for a king. Or a vice-president.