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Ken Adelman
Political advisor

Ken Adelman

A Reagan-era Ambassador and Arms Control Director, Ken Adelman is co-founder and vice-president of Movers and Shakespeares, which offers executive training and leadership development.

The president's fuzzy leadership

In response to the On Leadership question: One year into his presidency, what has been Barack Obama's most significant -- or most unexpected -- leadership strength or weakness?

In a word, disappointing. Partly that's because expectations were so high. But partly because he missed opportunities to have a "defining moment."

Leadership encompasses lots of activities and traits. Many Obama does well. But one biggie he's missed is to take an episode and make it a defining moment, one which says "This is who I really am."

Ronald Reagan did that instinctively with his reaction to getting shot and then the air controller's strike, both in 1981, and during the Reykjavik Summit in 1986. From such episodes world leaders and the American public understood who he was and what he stood for. The defining lines were bright, the lessons clear.

Obama has had several such opportunities - from his Inaugural Address (surprisingly unmemorable) to his response to the Christmas day wannabe-bomber (surprisingly unemotional).

But his golden opportunity happened early on -- best time for him to define himself -- when one of those massive spending bills, adorned with thousands of earmarks, reached his desk. Having espoused "change" and cleaning up inside-Washington's corruption as the hallmarks of his campaign, Obama should have considered his veto of the bill a no-brainer.

Sure, the Democratic leaders in Congress would have objected. Many howling, others merely moaning and groaning. All the better. The defining lesson would have been that Obama was really bringing change - even when opposed by his own party leaders - really cleaning up corruption, and really showing courage, saying, in effect, "I'll stand up to these special interests at home, just like I'll stand up to America's opponents abroad."
That, with the proper tough rhetorical wrappings, could have defined an otherwise fuzzy leadership.

By Ken Adelman

 |  January 19, 2010; 11:52 AM ET
Category:  Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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You compare Regan being shot to Obama's inaugural address?? Your last paragraph has decent points but bringing Regan into this shows you're probably a political hack. You know what esle happened under Regan's leadership; the beginning of extremely divisive social and cultural political warfare, crack, wall street getting even richer, and the Iran Contra...just to name a few.

Posted by: doesntmatter | January 19, 2010 2:23 PM
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Adleman is a zionist first, last and always. Worked the hapless Bush administration like a plumber.

Adelman would approve Obama if he'd
approve the building of settlements, on the sly with American money (tho Madoff's won't be there this time

bomb Iran, and invade syria, and then everyone else Isral can think of. And that's all Israel thinks of except taking over the west bank and their next blood lust war.

Choosing Adelman as a "panelist" here shows what this little story is all about.

Posted by: whistling | January 19, 2010 2:16 PM
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