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Obama's Jimmy Carter Problem

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
December 28, 2009
The Daily Beast


Don't be fooled by the year-end reprieve of President Obama because the economy looks a bit brighter and the Senate passed a health bill. He's been pummelled hard all along the political spectrum. He's in trouble. If he doesn't overhaul himself and his administration quickly, right-wing bizarros will control Congress in 2011 and he'll be looking for another job in 2013. He'll end up a one-termer like Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush. Obama can't afford to wait to make a mid-course correction a year from now. He's got to make a quarter-course correction in the next months. He needs to prioritize and focus his energies on the economy, teach his opponents to fear him, and change some top personnel. Above all, he's got to modify his own ways. He puts far too much store on being the smartest guy in the room and not enough on experience. He'd do well to remember that Jimmy Carter also rang all the IQ bells.

Mind you, I want Barack Obama to succeed. The simple truth, increasingly ignored by Americans and non-Americans alike, is that if he fails, we all fail: Corrosive nastiness and stalemates grow at home, and the world drowns without effective American leadership. I'm talking here about Obama's success specifically because too many Democrats border on incompetent and Republicans excel mainly at destruction. Obama shouldn't console himself by believing that as jobs slowly return, his re-election will be saved. His problems, our problems, run much deeper than jobs.



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