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John Hughes

Forget the birth certificate. The real question is: Where is Obama's leadership?

Obama has proven to be aloof and withdrawn on issues both at home and abroad, leaving us so far with a fuzzy picture of his leadership.

By John Hughes / April 28, 2011



The Trump-for-president campaigners have been obsessed with whether President Obama was actually born in the United States. The really intriguing question, however, is not “Where was he born?” but “Who is he?”

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During the 2008 campaign, Mr. Obama sent shivers down the spines of many Americans with electrifying oratory that swept him into the White House on a tsunami of public anticipation and excitement.

By many accounts, he has since proved to be a president of aloofness and withdrawal on issues both at home and abroad – an approach that defies attempts to define his vision and leaves us so far with a fuzzy picture of his leadership.

Is he an overcautious politician, practicing a sphinxlike reticence to avoid damaging his aura? Or is he simply incapable of the resolute decisionmaking that a President Ronald Reagan or even a President Bill Clinton would have brought to these turbulent times?

Wavering on Egypt, Libya

On the international scene, Obama backed and filled on whether to push Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak off his throne. On the issue of Libya, he procrastinated on taking action while Muammar Qaddafi waged a brutal campaign against pro-democracy insurgents. He shunned the lead role the US should have taken in humanitarian intervention in Libya. Only after significant pressure from the international community did Obama sign on to a French and British-led United Nations resolution to protect the Libyan rebels, with limited American participation, soon largely suspended.

In a well-analyzed speech, the president offered a puzzling definition of his foreign-policy doctrine, which seemed to say that the US might or might not intervene in instances of aggression, but only with multilateral support and not for very long, depending on how tough the circumstances were.

At home: on the sidelines, few specifics

On the home front, Obama has given lip service to addressing America’s mind-boggling debt, but has offered few specifics. He has seemed disengaged from the budget-cutting recommendations of his own appointed deficit commission.

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