There is an old axiom in politics and leadership in general that says, either you define yourself, or someone else will do it for you, most likely in a way that you don't like. When historians look back at the first 13 months of Barack Obama's Presidency, they will mention how everyone seemed to be defining him except for Obama and his administration. I am not saying that is the total of the administration's issues. They have made a few other genuine mistakes like not prosecuting a more vigorous change oriented agenda. I've covered those concepts in prior articles. This is more basic than disagreeing with policies and agenda choices. You have to define and defend who you are and your choices.
Republicans were determined to hang the Socialist label on Barack Obama. This started before the election and continued unabated into his Presidency. Nothing President Obama has done resembles the definition of Socialism. It's really not even close. I've covered this topic thoroughly several times in articles before this one. Suffice to say if you talk to a Socialist, one finds that they are offended to have their belief system compared with the actions of the administration.
Conversely, you have a portion of the activist wing of the Progressives in and outside of the Democratic Party who have been busy labeling the President as a right winger who hasn't changed policies appreciably from the Bush administration.
Dick Cheney has been going around saying that Obama is soft on terrorism and too pacifist in general and this is putting the country in danger.
The aforementioned Progressives say that Obama is a Rambo-esque warmonger and that the two current wars are now Obama's wars. This is interesting since Vietnam never became Nixon's war despite that the Vietnam War continued through Nixon's entire first term. Nixon even escalated the war in Vietnam late in his first term through operations Linebacker one and two. No one blames Nixon for Vietnam, but a significant number of Progressives are saying that Obama should be blamed for Iraq and Afghanistan.
The tea party, or teabaggers as I affectionately refer to them (this is my subtle use of irony), have been saying that Obama is a big government guy because of the stimulus and health care reform. There are several problems with those assertions. The first problem is that a stimulus is by nature a singular and temporary act. It's not strongly indicative one way or the other whether someone is for more government or against. A big government person would enact permanent measures that grow the government. As far as health care reform is concerned, the path that Democrats in congress, with President Obama's tacit approval, have taken health care reform is several dozen degrees of separation away from the bigger government possibilities. The top big government path for health care reform is single payer nationalized health care ala Canada or Great Britain. For better or for worse (I am not going to go into my opinion on that since that isn't the point here), this never received serious consideration by Democrats. There are also several types of single payer healthcare that do not involve complete or substantive nationalization. Those are also not on the table. The idea of a government public option was also summarily tossed aside. In the face of those facts, it is dishonest to say that Democrats or the President are pursuing a big government approach to healthcare reform. In fact, they seem to be running away from substantive government involvement in Health Care as fast as they can.
The problem for the administration is that all of that, the negative and in most cases false statements by tea partiers, Progressives, Dick Cheney and other Republicans, all of that has been and is being allowed to go on with very little in the way of response by the administration. They are letting all of these people and groups define the President. The simultaneous far right, far left criticisms of the President are pretty funny if you momentarily separate yourself from caring. As an experiment, I invite readers to spend time where I publish my articles at OpEdNews www.opednews.com and read several of the articles about Obama on that site, and then go to Free Republic www.freerepublic.com and read some of what they have to say about Obama. I am not prone to motion sickness, but the competing accusations of Right Wing Crypto-Fascist at OpEdNews and Socialist/Communist at Free Republic have me positively seasick after I did this.
This President and his administration have let other people define him. I think they have started to understand this and with things like taking on the Republican congressional caucus a few weeks ago they are taking some steps to address this but so far it is too little too late. The unanswered attacks have resulted in opinions that are entrenched in the minds of significant numbers of the American people. I might be able to understand this lack of responding to attacks if we had a President who was known for being a poor communicator. This President is one of the best communicators in American Presidential history. I'd put him in the top five for sure. Lincoln is #1 and Barack Obama is not far behind him.
Why have the folks around President Obama had him hanging back and not responding to these accusations? Better yet, why didn't they have him out there proactively defining himself before others had the chance? The administration has to have the President out there talking about what he is doing and why. They have to have him and the Vice President out there responding to critics. Overdoing this is better than not doing enough. The President has to stop letting other people define him if he hopes to have any chance of turning around the situation for the 2010 mid term elections or beyond.