President Obama exerted a welcome amount of executive leadership this past week as he dismissed Gen. Stanley McChrystal following the revelation of inappropriate comments offered by McChrystal and his staff in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine. Excerpts from the Rolling Stone article demonstrate an impermissible lack of judgment on the part of McChrystal and his staff and the subsequent actions taken by the president were both appropriate and justified. Unfortunately, this recent example of executive leadership belies the uncertainty with which the American public has come to view Obama’s credibility as both leader of the free world and overseer of a nation struggling through myriad domestic crises.
President Obama entered office riding upon a wave of hope and change. His rhetorical flair summoned the enthusiasm of a large share of the electorate theretofore unengaged in the political process. The positivity felt by much of the American public upon his election far exceeded that enjoyed by his predecessor; however, many felt that such adulation was premature, that Obama’s worldview would not comport to the unpredictability of geopolitics. As the nation continues to grapple with an uncontrollable Gulf oil spill and unrest continues to besiege regions as diverse as the Middle East, the Korean peninsula, and our own southern border, the uncertainties of the latter have now come to infiltrate the once hopeful aspirations of the former.
A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows the extent to which the American public has lost faith in President Obama’s leadership and decision-making abilities. Shortly upon assuming office, Obama enjoyed a job approval rating above sixty percent. This number remained high for several months, throughout his nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and the $787 billion stimulus bill. Early into his presidency the public appeared to approve of Obama’s capacity to steer the nation through the ongoing economic calamity.
This approval, however, began to diminish as the appetite among the American public for Obama’s hard left agenda began to wane. Following the House and Senate approval of legislation amounting to a massive overhaul of the American health care system his approval ratings began to dip, falling below fifty percent. His pursuit of financial regulatory legislation and the desire to achieve a system of “cap and trade” has added to the nation’s collective apprehension over his administration’s goals. Adding to the public’s uneasiness with his policy decisions has come the continual appearance of incompetence in his handling of the Gulf oil spill, a crisis which has seen his approval ratings drop to a new low of forty-five percent.
Before one concludes that Obama’s drop in job approval is largely a result of partisan angst it is notable to reference that the president’s disapproval rating among members of his own party now reaches seventeen percent, the highest number since he took office. To compound the president’s problems further, thirty percent of Americans today feel as though they can’t relate to the president and under half of respondents described the president as “honest” and possessing strong “leadership qualities.”
It has not been domestic endeavors alone that have contributed to the decline in President Obama’s standing among the electorate. In the past year the president has offered only tepid support to many of our long-standing allies around the world as they contend with domestic crises of their own. This, coupled with his almost naive adherence to soft handling many of the world’s most consistent agitators, e.g. North Korea and Iran, has led to uncertainty among many within the global community as to the extent which America can be relied upon in a crisis. Having left doubt in the minds of both our enemies and friends abroad it is no wonder that the uncertainties surrounding the president’s leadership has now shifted to a domestic audience.
President Obama’s removal of Gen. McChrystal was indeed an appropriate and justified response and one that demonstrated an all too unfamiliar sense of decisiveness within the president. The president, and America, would be well served if he took this new-found assertiveness and applied it to the ongoing crises both at home and abroad. Americans need their president to step forward and lead them in times of great difficulty. If President Obama can find within himself the ability to offer that leadership then perhaps his competence will increase within the eyes of the American people as well.
Scott G. Erickson is an advocate of conservative, principled solutions to the issues facing America. He has worked to advance conservative priorities through coalition building and is an active participant in myriad organizations seeking to restore the foundational principles of America. A committed public servant, he has worked in the field of law enforcement for the past decade and holds both his B.S. and M.S. in Criminal Justice Studies. He resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.