THE BLOG

The Audacity of Impotence

Jun 16, 2010 | Updated May 25, 2011

When G.W. Bush was elected, those on the rightish side of things were quite happy to relax, knowing that their guy was going to do things well. It was like being on automatic...a cruise control President. And sure enough, Bush didn't disappoint. Taxes were cut, regulations gutted, wars fought, and so on.

When Obama got the big job, there was some similar hope on the left that he would be our guy, in there fighting the good fight. For the most part, the President has done that, but Tuesday night's non-address has highlighted some serious problems with "our guy."

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The issue is not money, BP, or the need to do more. Obama is obviously fully engaged in solving the immediate and short-term problems engendered by the disaster.

The issue is leadership.

History has handed the President an unprecedented opportunity to grab the wheel of State and spin it. What better than the nation's worst environmental disaster to use as a lever for making bold changes? And yet Obama offered no new legislative proposals, nor described the scope of the problem, or even asked for the American people to do anything except pray. How pathetic.

In his 1979 "Malaise" Speech, Jimmy Carter did what Obama failed to do on Tuesday. He looked America straight in the eye and said, "we're in deep shit, and we need to do something about it." He offered solid solutions. I've edited them down here:

Point one: ...I am tonight setting the further goal of cutting our dependence on foreign oil by one-half by the end of the next decade.

Point two: To ensure that we meet these targets, I will use my presidential authority to set import quotas.

Point three: ...I am asking for the most massive peacetime commitment of funds and resources in our nation's history to develop America's own alternative sources of fuel...

Point four: I'm asking Congress to mandate...that our nation's utility companies cut their massive use of oil by 50 percent within the next decade and switch to other fuels...

Point five: ...I will urge Congress to create an energy mobilization board which will have the responsibility and authority to cut through the red tape...

Point six: I'm proposing a bold conservation program to involve every state, county, and city and every average American in our energy battle.

I ask Congress to give me authority for mandatory conservation and for standby gasoline rationing...I'm proposing tonight an extra $10 billion over the next decade to strengthen our public transportation systems. And I'm asking you for your good and for your nation's security to take no unnecessary trips, to use carpools or public transportation whenever you can, to park your car one extra day per week, to obey the speed limit, and to set your thermostats to save fuel. Every act of energy conservation like this is more than just common sense -- I tell you it is an act of patriotism.

Now that's a plan. Granted, Carter got axed the next year because Americans don't like to be told they suck, but that's more a style than substance issue. With the destruction of the Gulf winding his back, Obama could do all that Carter failed to do and more.

And he must do more, because the hideous black curtain snuffing out life in the Caribbean is only a precursor to the damage climate change will inflict on the world.

Perhaps the President has such a plan, and he's being crafty. Maybe. But we can't count on it.

Unfortunately, Obama showed us on Tuesday that he is not going to be a cruise control President. We the people have to force him to make the changes that must be made, as MLK Jr. made LBJ pass the Voting Rights Act.

This is my first pass at doing that. What will be yours?

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