President Obama’s Leadership Limitations

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Source: Flickr / Gage Skidmore

When veteran journalist David Gregory sat down for an interview on “Politicking with Larry King,” he diagnosed a problem facing Barack Obama’s presidency. King asked Gregory how the administration ended up “on the wrong track with the health care thing,” specifically the issues with HealthCare.gov. Gregory’s response candidly contextualized President Obama’s shortcomings.

Gregory said the president understood “intuitively” the need for a great user experience while electronically signing up for health care, “otherwise young people are not going to mess around with technology that doesn’t work — they don’t have time for that.” Obama is the “Internet president,” Gregory points out, but his campaigns that everyone lauds were run by a private company, the sector best equipped to handle such projects. When it came to HealthCare.gov, the president brought in the government.

“I don’t know who’s around him, Larry, who really uses the muscle of the Oval Office to get things done. It hasn’t been his chief of staff, and there’s not other people who say the president wants this, we are gonna to get this right, or people are going to lose it, they’re gonna lose their jobs, and heads are gonna roll,” Gregory said. “He doesn’t seem to have that leadership style, he doesn’t have that toughness about him, and so making the machinery of government work is that much harder.”

This is quite the rebuke by a journalist, but it isn’t the first. In Maureen Dowd’s New York Times column following the government shutdown, she wrote about Obama’s leadership — particularly, the absence of it. “The paradox of Obama is that he believes in his own magical powers, but then he doesn’t turn up to use them,” she said. “There’s nothing wrong with a president breaking a sweat somewhere beyond the basketball court.”

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