Leadership Trust: Is This Finally The Public’s Tipping Point On President Obama?

giant-jengaTipping points are events that establish major shifts in public attitudes and the culture, and what determines a tipping point varies from circumstance to circumstance. When the switch is flipped on public trust, a leader is done for, at least in a democracy. This is why, in a parliamentary system,  prime ministers call for elections at such times, or even resign. It’s a tradition the U.S. might do well to consider.

The tipping point on the George W. Bush presidency was glaringly obvious: it was the botched handling of Hurricane Katrina, even though that particular fiasco was mostly an example of effective  blame-shifting by New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin. Bush had already accumulated many legitimate reasons to doubt him, but the traditional American eagerness to like and trust whoever holds the same job as Washington, Lincoln and FDR had kept his presidency afloat…until it drowned in Katrina. All was downhill from there.

Interestingly, nobody at the time argued that Americans should support the lousy response to Katrina because not doing so would cripple the Bush presidency going forward. But I digress..

Now it appears that the Obama proposal/decision/ argument—who knows what it really is?—to engage in a limited missile attack on Syria may be the public tipping point on Obama’s leadership, the moment when the veils fall and the nation reluctantly but decisively admits that the man it elected—twice—as its leader cannot be trusted. If so, it is remarkable this took so long, testimony to how much we all wanted our first African-American President to succeed. The tipping point for me was years ago. Following the Bush experience, I thought that the bungled government handling of the Gulf oil spill would clinch it, but no. Then came the Benghazi mess, with an ambassador and other Americans murdered without any decisive response other than deceptive spin and obfuscation to avoid electoral consequences—the I.R.S. tea party harassment (still being investigated, and looking worse all the time)—the NSA revelations, and the growing evidence that while the Affordable Care Act may not be the cataclysmic socialist disaster conservatives claim it is, it is also far from what the President promised. No tipping point though, until Syria, and the consequences flowing directly from the President’s undisciplined off-the-cuff rhetoric—a constantly repeated flaw in his leadership style.

Now, as tipping points do, this current controversy is resuscitating all of the past incidents, and serving as the catalyst for a reappraisal of Obama’s leadership. The looming conclusion is that he cannot be trusted.

Occasionally am beaten to the punch by a pundit or blogger who delivers an essay that says exactly what I was preparing to write, even as I was almost finished writing it. Such a pundit is Forbes contributor Merrill Mathews, who delivered an article on that publication’s website over the weekend, titled “What Happens When You Can’t Believe A Thing The President Says?” (My title was going to be “When Trust Is Gone”).

Some key quotes from the article:

  • “I have come to the point that I cannot believe a thing President Obama says.  That’s not quite the same as saying I don’t believe anything he says.  When he speaks he may be telling the truth, he may not be, or he may be parsing his words to mislead.  But it’s impossible to know: which is which?”

  • “With respect to Syria, the president tells us there will be no U.S. boots on the ground.  Um, would that be like:

If you like your health coverage you can keep it (Most people won’t be able to)….Health insurance premiums for a family would be $2,500 lower by the end of his first term in office. (They were actually about $3,000 higher)….The Obama administration was not responsible for proposing the budget sequester idea. (Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward challenged this claim and forced the administration to backtrack)….Money from the nearly $800 billion stimulus package would be spent on “shovel-ready projects” and unemployment would drop to 5.3 percent by the end of his first term. (The president later conceded the projects weren’t as shovel ready as he had hoped and unemployment was 7.9 percent)…. There was nothing Obama could do about Benghazi.  (Subsequent revelations and congressional testimony have shown just how disengaged or disinterested the administration was)…. The Justice Department told a judge that Fox News reporter James Rosen was a “co-conspirator” and a security threat? (The DOJ later apologized and tried to make amends with Washington reporters)…. That Attorney General Eric Holder didn’t know about the Fast and Furious gun-running program?  (Investigators have found documents confirming that he did have knowledge)…”

  • “And when Obama or his team aren’t asserting something that is demonstrably false, they are frequently making claims that might be technically true, but are intended to mislead.”

I don’t agree with all of Mathews’ examples, especially the current criticism of his “I didn’t draw the red line” remark in Sweden. It should be very clear, to anyone not already convinced that Obama was lying, that he meant only that the absolute international ban on chemical weapons existed before he made his “red line” remark. However, Merrill hardly cited all the examples of the President’s deceptions, from the critical—saying in the third debate with Romney that he had specifically called the Benghazi attack a terrorist act when he had not, to the inexplicable—stating the the Supreme Court had never overturned Congressional legislation, to the trivial but telling—promising to get his children a shelter dog.

Has the tipping point on trust been reached at last? If so, any American who rejoices is a fool. With so much to be done and such daunting problems to face, no patriot or sane citizen should welcome three years being led by a President who has squandered the trust of the public, which is the presumption of competence, honesty and good will. But, as I said, I reached that point with this President years ago, for the evidence was there for anyone willing to see it.

Welcome to despair.


Pointer: Instapundit

Source: Forbes

Graphic: Danolamolympics

61 thoughts on “Leadership Trust: Is This Finally The Public’s Tipping Point On President Obama?

  1. This is a crucial moment in the Obama Presidency. If Congress does not approve his plan and he goes ahead anyway, one would have to question why he bothered in the first place. And how will that set up for the two upcoming decisions in the next month, on the Budget and the Debt Ceiling?

    The House is using this opportunity to their political advantage and will never approve this action.. .So again why did the President bother asking for approval in the first place?

    And if the President does not follow through with his action, he will be left with some very harsh criticism from everyone.

    His best hope is Door #3, where a diplomatic solution of some sort is reached without military action… Another low probability event.

    • If House Republicans would still be rejecting the attack if they were Democrats—and they would—one can’t argue that they are only voting against the attack as partisan animus. I keep reading this argument–isn’t it obvious how lame it is? The attack is 1) a terrible idea 2) opposed by the American public and 3) opposed by the international community, but the Republican are only voting against it because they hate Obama? How can anyone argue that with straight face? Maybe they enjoy the vote more because they don’t like Obama, but that doesn’t make their position any less genuine or correct.

      • Republicans have zero credibility when it comes to validity of rejecting any Obama proposal. In this case they might be falling in line with popular opinion, and international opinion. Another blind squirrel and nut story.

        However, Congressional motives are completely different, and are rooted in extreme partisianship.

      • Its worth considering that going to Congress for approval gives the President some political cover: If they say NO he (thinks he) gets to save face AND he may also blame any Assad led atrocity on his political opponents. I say “some” because I think the amount of political capital to be mined from this situation is rather minimal.

            • Did he say he was bound to consult Congress? Or is he just choosing to ask Congress with the belief that he is not required to do so under the war powers act?

              • The latter – he specifically said that although he’s consulting Congress, he’s not bound by Congress’ decision. For which, f him.

                On the other hand, if Congress turns him down in a bi-partisan vote, as seems likely, it will be politically much more difficult for him to attack Syria than it would otherwise have been. So I think the vote does potentially matter.

                • I am still trying to understand how Obama can leverage the “Emergency War Powers Act” when we have not declared war on anyone… we declared “War on Terrorism”… or, at least his predecessor did… and I’m still waiting to see how a war declared on a condition, such as drugs, poverty, AIDS, or terrorism compares to an “Act of War” declared against another nation and approved by Congress. But… that’s just me…

            • Yes, I agree – he is Constitutionally required to consult congress on an action like this, and he was Constitutionally required to consult congress before attacking Libya.

              But you’re right, Obama doesn’t concede that. I doubt any President ever will, unfortunately – it’s not in the nature of Presidents to voluntarily, vastly reduce their own power.

              The only hope I see is that maybe someday Congress will decide to assert itself. But I think most of Congress LIKES the President making such decisions, since it means they don’t have to take responsibility for them.

      • Jack, before Obama decided to put the vote to the House, Republican House members were all over the TV criticizing Obama for not attacking Syria. After Obama’s Sept 31 announcement, many Republicans have turned against the idea.

        Do you know of a substantive, non-partisan reason that many GOP members thought attacking Syria was a great idea on September 30th and then changed their mind after September 31? Because to me, it looks like partisan hackery.

        (Not that many Democrats aren’t being partisan hacks too. But it’s looking possible that many or most will vote against an attack on Syria. I hope so, and I wish those people had been as smart when they were voting on attacking Iraq.)

        • Do you know of a substantive, non-partisan reason that many GOP members thought attacking Syria was a great idea on September 30th and then changed their mind after September 31?

          Sure. Because the hawks wanted full and unequivocal intervention, and for the US to bring down Assad. That’s essentially McCain’s position. The limited, neither help nor hinder plan Obama has put forth is too weak and still dangerous. There have been times when I thought I was in favor of armed intervention, but not this whatever-it-is, halfway, weak nonsense.

          • Obama’s GOP critics before Sept 30 were NOT mainly calling for “full and unequivocal intervention, and for the US to bring down Assad.”

            Republican strategist Karl Rove thinks Obama must get congressional approval, and he prefers a short-term solution, he told Fox News Channel. A no-fly zone, he warned, could end up being a decade-long commitment.


            The United States must enforce its red-line threat against Syria or Iran will believe it can move forward with its nuclear weapons plans without interference, [GOP Rep Peter] King said. But he still isn’t willing to take the side of Syrian opposition forces in the war, he said.

            McCain, before Obama tossed it to Congress, was not even remotely calling for “full and unequivocal intervention.” Your argument radically mis-characterizes what McCain’s position was before September 30.

            “It is long past time for the United States and our friends and allies to respond to Assad’s continuing mass atrocities in Syria with decisive actions, including limited military strikes to degrade Assad’s air power and ballistic missile capabilities,” he said in a statement.

            If Obama called “limited” strikes “decisive,” you’d sneer at it as ridiculous nonsense – and rightly so.

            More McCain:

            “There would be no boots on the ground.” McCain said. “We would not put a single life at risk…. This can be done very easily… with very little cost.”

            Senator Mark Kirk before Sept 30, apparently unaware that we don’t know exactly which “unit” used chemical weapons, a fact that he could have found out with two minutes of googling.

            While traveling in Illinois, Sen. Mark Kirk (R) went a step further by endorsing calls for a targeted military strike on the Syrian unit responsible for using chemical weapons on civilians. […] He also rejected any extended U.S. military involvement in Syria, saying that a naval strike instead would prevent any harm to U.S. service members.

            Or Senator Bob Corker, also calling for a limited intervention back before Sept 30:

            “I do hope, as I’ve said several times, that what we do is surgical, it’s proportionate to what has happened,” Corker said. “But what I do not want to see us do is involve ourselves in a civil war.”

            Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called for “multilateral airstrikes,” but added “Putting boots on the ground is not an option.”

            I could go on and on, with dozens more examples, because virtually every elected Republican was saying the same thing before Sept 30. (Two exceptions: Mario Rubio and Bob Inhofe).

            Limited strikes is exactly what almost all GOP critics of Obama were calling for before they knew they’d have to vote on it. The GOP’s about-face from criticizing Obama for not attacking Assad, to being (mostly) against a Syria strike once they’d have to take some responsibility by voting for it, is a clear-cut example of partisan opportunism outweighing principled policy. You shouldn’t be making excuses for them.

  2. Didn’t Defense Secretary Hagel essentially make the same point as Merrill Matthews? He instructed everyone in the military to ignore President Obama’s statements on pending rape cases. A defense secretary who tells the military to ignore the commander-in-chief? The only reasonable excuse for this is “you know you can’t believe this guy”. Obama’s own administration are using his untrustworthiness as a legal argument against unlawful command influence. That speaks volumes.

      • Perhaps, but it is still a most dangerous precedent to set. I think is possibly a more dangerous than if all the current rape cases had their sentencing affected (as some have). Having a defense secretary or anyone else tell the military to ignore the commander-in-chief for any reason is a terrible and possibly tragic idea. Obama should have apologized for his foolish statement and clarified his statements in a way to avoid the perception of the unlawful command influence HIMSELF, maintaining his authority.

        Also, “ignore this guy because he doesn’t understand what he is doing” and “ignore this guy because you know you can trust what he says” are difficult to distinguish and neither is something an administration should publicly announce about the President of the United States.

        • I wouldn’t say disobeying a Commander in Chief is terrible and tragic for every idea.

          The military (indeed the entire executive branch) is only bound to follow lawful orders. Any commands or policies or guidance or orders from above in direct opposition to Laws passed by Congress or the will of Congress are unlawful.

          I’ve heard discussion about whether the military is obligated to execute a strike against Syria if the President so commands after Congress expressly disapproves such action.

  3. I think “turning points” are rare, almost a myth, and that nearly every case someone points to as a “turning point” isn’t really.

    For instance, if you look at George W. Bush’s approval ratings, they were unaffected by Katrina – if anything, he had a significant (although temporary) bump in approval toward the end of 2005.

    If Bush had a turning point, it was in January of 2005, nine months before “heckofajob!” In January 2005, after a year of more-or-less holding steady, his approval ratings started to decline, and continued declining (minus a short-lived bump or two) until the end of his presidency.

    The most important thing that happened with Bush in January 2005, of course, was being sworn in for his second term as President. I can’t see how that would have caused his approval ratings to start declining, though.

    Regarding Obama, I hope Congress votes him down on Syria and that he accedes to Congress’ decision. But I don’t expect it to be a “turning point.” In the long run, I think Obama’s going to be judged mostly on how the economy does, and on how Obamacare performs once it’s been in place several years.

    • “Tipping point.” But we”ll see. You must not be a Malcolm Gladwell fan.
      I don’t think polls measure these matters especially well. Bush’s personal ratings went down over Katrina. In any natural disaster, Presidential ratings usually soar, and they did not— that, I believe, was because the point had tipped.

  4. I fear you’re engaged in wishful thinking, Jack. Nothing will ever damage Obama’s image in the eyes of his adoring public and his enablers. Nothing. As with, for example, HIllary Clinton. All of which is absolutely bizarre.

  5. Does anyone know if Kerry’s flippant “all he has to do is give up all his chemical weapons” was from an actual responsible diplomatic process leading to possible war or possible reconciliation??? Or was he just being an idiot with no answer and shooting at the hip?

    The Russians seemed to take him seriously.

    • Everyone seems to think its a great idea.

      And it isn’t a bad one, which is why I hope it was part of a planned and thought out approach to this debacle. Of course, I know I’m too hopeful on that, since if it were a consideration, it would have come out sometime after the original dumb “red line” commentary.

      But of course, odds are it was just some flippant answer that will probably be quietly incorporated into the strategy as though it always was.

      • Ah. Ok. Its being reported as a non serious answer. Way to go Kerry. Non serious answers when discussing war?

        Dear third world nations who hate us, are you taking notes? We’re fucking incompetent.

    • “The Russians seemed to take him seriously.”

      The Russians aren’t serious, and Kerry knows it (and so do we). This is a case of the U.S. standing toe-to-toe with itself in a mirror – and blinking.

      Chemical weapons are in Syria to stay. It’s going to be fun to see which parties come into control of them – and, which use them, the next times.

      • Thanks, texagg04. It wasn’t there when I posted. (Also, I may have double posted the FreakOutNation thingie. Wasn’t showing up on refresh, so I thought there was a glitch.)

    • “Game changer?”

      Nope. M.O.T.S.O.S. (sorry Jack for the acronym, but it’s easy to Google)

      Talk is cheap. Yack, yack, yack. Delay, delay, delay.

      Death, death, and more death for people in Syria.
      (And that is the full extent of what American bombs would accomplish.)

  6. What do you think?

    As the media interprets recent events as Obama’s march to war, America and the world falls for it hook, line and sinker. Say what you want about Obama but he is a very smart man. He would never ask permission he did not need from Congress to launch a strike on Syria unless he knew beyond a doubt he could get it. That is if his real intentions were to actually carry out military operations. But why on earth does it appear he wants this war?
    – See more at: http://freakoutnation.blogspot.com/2013/09/president-obamas-brilliant-strategy-no.html#sthash.dADJHZ9e.dpuf

    • Yep, it’ll be the “saber-rattling worked” story line.

      Of course, no one would dare suggest that the President cancel his speech tonight, since now there is nothing to talk about – except maybe some vague, Congress-entrapping and -humiliating maneuver that Obama wants to make – in the wake of the [sarcasm] kind and courageous [end sarcasm] Russian maneuver.

      • Oh yeah…this’ll make for more books and movies than the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. It might even win another Nobel Prize for Obama – and his appointment to the UN by 45th President Hillary. (He hasn’t converted to Islam yet, but that’ll happen soon enough, and perfectly timed of course.)

        • Oh yeah…this’ll make for more books and movies than the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. It might even win another Nobel Prize for Obama –
          Oh, man, that will just be so damn awesome!
          Now the Left can quit cowering in their shoes and publicly support their messiah again!
          It’s win / win for all!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Finlay, I am your partner in sarcasm here.
            (But all cynical despondency and fatalistic resignation here is mine.)

            Look for another absurd spin (if it isn’t out already) that calls Obama’s handling of the Assad regime’s chemical arsenal “Obama’s Munich.”

            Yeah. That’ll be like me, climbing the stairs in my house from the first to the second floor, and all my friends (all 3 of them), screaming to all the world as if something unprecedented in human courage has been accomplished: “That was Eeyoure’s Everest!”

            I will retract, for now, what I said about 45th President Hillary appointing Obama to the UN. Oh, NO: that would be too transient, ephemeral and ineffectual. That wouldn’t screw up things NEARLY enough. So, instead, she’ll install him on the Supreme Court. Either before or after he converts to Islam.

    • Of course its not, and that spin won’t work—not when two dangerous foes of the US and long-time allies exploit the incompetence of the POTUS and his pathetic Sec. of State to look like peace-makers and good guys. Not when, in the end, Assad will have a blank check from Obama to murder as many of his people as he likes, as long as he does it the “right” way. You can’t spin your way out of this kind of clown act. The world is laughing.

    • I give 2 weeks before the media is in full force spin mode and this, and baring any other developments, this will be a “full Obama victory”.
      Yes, the back slapping has already started.
      Yay for Hanoi John and the community organizer!

  7. Jack,
    I don’t find this an occasion to rejoice either. But if enough of the Repubublic realizes that the president can’t be trusted then perhaps he won’t be able to completely screw up some of the things that we would regret had been done.

  8. Not when, in the end, Assad will have a blank check from Obama to murder as many of his people as he likes, as long as he does it the “right” way.

    You honestly think the US ever had the ability to prevent this, with anything less than a full-on regime change invasion? If so, you’re mistaken.

    (A full-on invasion is, needless to say, a ridiculous policy to favor. Who would we replace Assad with who wouldn’t also purge Syrians? How many Syrians would die in our invasion? And when Syrians inevitably start fighting our occupation, how many Syrians are we willing to kill in order to prevent Syrians from being killed?)

    They’re fighting a civil war in Syria. There is no policy option that will magically prevent large-scale death in another country’s civil war, nor is Assad going to decide not to fight his side of the war based on what the US president does, rather than based on his need to cling to power like his father did before him. Expecting any US President or Congress to prevent that is unreasonable.

    The best policy we can take to help Syrians is to open immigration from Syrian very wide (similar to our Cuban immigration policy for decades, or to what Sweden did last week). It really pisses me off that no one important from either party is talking about doing this. But I guess helping people in a way that we’re actually capable of accomplishing, and without missiles, isn’t appealing enough to either party’s leadership.

  9. The author fails to mention the “Fast and Furious” debacle where the ATF forced privately-owned sole proprieterships to break Federal Law by selling guns to known “straw purchasers” for illegal transport across international boundaries into a foreign country (yes, Mildred, Mexico IS a foreign country). And then, subsequently the ATF issued a “Letter of Instruction” forcing those same companies to AGAIN break Federal Law (FOPA 1986) by supporting a de-facto gun registration process.

    This was all done under the guise of tracking the guns’ precession into the cartels of Mexico. Though, there were no tracking devices, no Mexican authorities involved or even notified, and only three US ATF agents in the entire country of Mexico… in Mexico City…

    This whole charade is viewed here in Arizona as an Obamanation attempt to bolster the number of US guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico for the sole purpose of justifying Obama’s anti-gun policies… at the expense of at least two US Border Patrol agents and countless Mexican citizens.

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