Death of a salesman, Re: The Salesman-In-Chief Back In Campaign Mode, Toronto Globe & Mail, September 8, 2009

The Globe & Mail’s headline says it all. Barack Obama is a consummate salesman who ran an absolutely brilliant campaign which ended with his election as President of the United States. Sales skills are completely different from leadership and management skills however and his lack of competence in these areas is very problematic and alarming. A President who cannot unite people and lead them on a particular path or understand and manage extremely complex portfolios cannot possibly govern effectively either. To date, Obama has been an exceedingly divisive President, has failed to show that he has an in-depth understanding of what being Leader of The Free World actually entails and has been rightfully and severely criticized for his management efforts in a number of key areas, by partisans and non-partisans alike. The prime examples are health care, foreign policy and the economy but there are others as well.

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If effective universal health care is to become a reality in the United States the President must act as a catalyst…he must convince ordinary Americans and all the stakeholders involved that it is in their own best interests to have it and that it is possible to develop a system which provides it. He must then work with all concerned to make it happen. Bringing a wide variety of divergent interests together is key to the success of the process and he has been singularly unsuccessful in doing this. He has used his office as a bully pulpit and tried to ram his personal vision of a universal health care system e.g. one based on big government and a huge bureaucracy, down people’s throats. In doing so has alienated virtually everyone and arguably ensured that the present chaotic and deficient system will continue on for years. There is a real possibility his Presidency may founder on the health care issue alone.

In foreign policy he has frightened, disaffected and angered America’s friends and allies, emboldened and encouraged her enemies, denigrated and diminished American and Western values and accomplishments, shown an appalling lack of knowledge of history, demonstrated a disturbing naivete’ and willingness to consort with, appease and put faith in evil, intractable individuals and regimes who would like nothing better than to destroy the country, failed to take strong, uncompromising stands when required, set himself up for obvious failure in several different areas and generally made the United States much more vulnerable, the world much more dangerous and war much more likely. His Presidency could also easily founder on foreign policy.

Obama’s management of the economy has been no more successful. His highly touted stimulus package hasn’t worked, the nation’s finances are in a shambles, he has run up incomprehensibly large deficits, unemployment remains inordinately high, many federal government programs have been cut back, eliminated or are in peril, including longstanding entitlement ones, tax increases are a virtual certainty, home ownership, jobs and personal finances remain jeopardized, pessimism and gloom are pervasive and so on. The wretched state of the economy and his seeming inability to deal with it could bring him down even if health care or foreign policy doesn’t.

Unfortunately there is nothing in Obama’s make-up or past to indicate that he is willing or able to modify his attitudes and behaviour, change course and rescue his Presidency. Aside from the tragic consequences, potential or otherwise, for all of us, what does this mean for him? It means that he will not be re-elected and that his name will be forever included with Jimmy Carter in the ranks of failed, one term Presidents. It means the death of a salesman.

Metaphorically of course.

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