The price of missed opportunity
Q: Even before we know the outcome of the health care vote in the House, how would you rate President Obama's leadership on the issue?
Health care was a major campaign theme for Candidate Barack Obama. But, as President Obama, he has allowed others to define this crucial issue. To me, that signals a missed opportunity for leadership.
The president didn't adequately define his priorities for health-care reform. He wasn't clear about what would be sacrosanct to him and what he might be willing to compromise on. Perhaps most importantly, he didn't emphasize the positives of reform.
For example, he could have stressed that providing health coverage for millions of Americans who are uninsured and cannot afford care is not just a moral imperative, it's also an economic imperative. Think of the savings when these individuals can count on good preventive care instead of having to rely on the costly method of turning to hospital emergency rooms whenever their medical problems flare up.
This leader who has been praised for his great verbal gifts failed to articulate a clear, concise, and compelling vision for one of his high-order priorities. He didn't need to supply all the details, just a solid outline that would help guide the process. However, we never saw one.
And so now the president is trying to rally support, but this is something he should have been doing last spring. He could have prevented the scenes of last summer's rowdy town hall meetings. His lobbying for reform now in public appearances has less effect now, and it smacks of desperation. His popularity has declined, and the public is less certain of the need for reform than it was a year ago. It has been an unnecessarily difficult struggle, providing fodder for his opponents as the midterm elections draw nearer. It also has distracted him from other major domestic issues, such as employment.
Sometimes a leader has to nudge the process along, and President Obama didn't do that in the case of health care reform. Perhaps he was getting bad advice from people who didn't want to risk losing any of the immense goodwill with which he entered the White House. But that's no way to lead. If you're afraid to leave the shore, how are you going to cross the ocean? If you're slow to take charge, you'll miss the boat.
Posted by: Lookinginfromoverseas | March 19, 2010 6:16 PM
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Posted by: ithinker | March 19, 2010 4:20 PM
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