Obama finding no shortage of crises in his presidency

Published 10:01 pm Tuesday, June 8, 2010

These days President Obama may be reflecting on the line from John Lennon: “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

Obama has entered the second stage of his presidency. During the initial stage he put in place a variety of proposals and programs to fulfill his campaign promises: health care, economic stimulus, greater tax fairness, financial reform. Now in the second stage he is forced to respond to the crises and problems that life has sprung on him.

The BP oil spill is a large one. But then Israel attacked a flotilla of ships from Turkey that was attempting to carry relief supplies to Gaza. …

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As Obama has tried to foster a new peace process in the Middle East, events have continually jostled his plans.

Initially, Obama had been critical of the settlement policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which is nothing new: American presidents are always critical of Israeli settlements. But Netanyahu threw Obama’s criticisms back at him when his administration announced new settlements on the eve of an important visit from Vice President Joe Biden.

Now Netanyahu’s aggressive policy toward Gaza has created a storm of protest that will only stall talks that had barely moved beyond a stall. Obama is discovering that how he responds to new crises as they happen will shape his presidency as surely as his best ideas and most persuasive arguments. …

Obama’s deliberate style of decision-making has been both a plus and a minus. His lengthy review of his policy in Afghanistan, and his willingness to stand up to the military leadership, produced a well-informed, thoughtful and nuanced policy for Afghanistan. His slow public response to the oil spill in the Gulf left the impression that he was not in charge, and even if, technically, he is not in charge of BP’s disaster, his slowness to respond began to undermine his standing with the public and forced him finally to take bolder action. …

As Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel says, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Obama is learning that as president he will have no shortage of crises.

– Rutland (Vt.) Herald