With all the talk about Obama’s “leading from behind”, Richard Miniter’s book should be more of a best seller. The official title of the book is Leading From Behind: The Reluctant President and the Advisors who Decide for Him. In this accounting of six of the most notorious incidents of Obama’s administration – the first credit downgrade, damage to the Israeli relationship, Fast and Furious, the 2011 budget deal, the killing of Osama bin Laden and “ObamaCare” – Miniter paints yet another picture of a leader who has none of the attributes that a true leader should have and all of the ones we who have worked under one horrid boss after another recognize. On top of that, Obama thinks like a woman. (Talk about a bad combination.)
Miniter begins the book with a chapter on the women who influenced Obama’s life and thinking. There were no strong men to do so, but there were a whole lot of women and the sorts we ladies would call “mean girls” and queen bees. To put it mildly, his mother wasn’t interested in being one. She did not instill any sort of roots or religious values in Obama regardless of his attendance at a Muslim school in Indonesia. None of the “father-figures” she brought home were terribly interested, either, so Obama just kind of floated through life in his early years going along to get along making no important or lasting decisions.
Until he met Michelle. Miniter gives readers yet another version of the young, angry Michelle Robinson who was close to her parents (and remains close to her mother). While at Princeton University, Michelle Obama did not try to assimilate with her white classmates, instead choosing to be involved with black student groups. She was particularly impressed with the idea of community activism and that seems to be what drew her to her Obama. What is telling, though, about him in their case is that she was the one to push marriage. He couldn’t make a decision and she closed his options. About Obama when it comes to Michelle, Miniter writes, “He can be doctrinaire, resisting logical next steps, preferring to stay in his comfort zone; and she and very few others can sway him to change his mind.” And, “He appears either unable to anticipate the predictable reaction of the press or unable to rein in the first lady.” Obama also does not know how to defend her, which is a terribly unmasculine trait.
There are the predictable statements and stories about Valerie Jarrett and more confirmation that the democratic faithful are so enamored of the Clintons, any criticism of Hillary is verboten. But the more interesting of the stories on women actually regards Nancy Pelosi.
We on the “rightish” side of the political spectrum have long considered the former Speaker of the House of Representatives as being pretty much an upscale dumb blonde. Miniter shows another side of her. In the world of politics, it seems that there are two sorts of operators: realists and true believers. Nancy Pelosi is a true believer, especially when it came to what has come to be known as “ObamaCare.” Miniter outlines the case that it was really “PelosiCare.” It was her idea to get it passed while the leftists had control of both sides of Congress. She was the one to walk into Obama’s office and press him to put it on the agenda regardless of the fact that the left had been trying to get some form of the thing passed for 100 years with no luck or that the concept has always been political poison. We on the right might see her as being a dumb country club wife, but in reality, she’s more of an alpha female who knows how to defend her turf – at least on this – and is not above blackmail (which she did to the insurance industry). In the end, what Obama has claimed as his signature piece of legislation, wasn’t his.
The next topic tackled again dealt with the Speaker of the House, but this time it was John Boehner who is presented as a pragmatic realist. When he and Obama sat down to work out the budget deal in 2011, things started out well enough when it was just them. But then, some other representatives started getting publically nervous about the lack of public negotiation. Boehner was smart enough to recognize that Rep. Eric Cantor’s movements to get some public discussion was going to sabotage his efforts as the budget deal got closer to reality, and brought him into the talks. The goal was to avoid a change in the AAA+ credit rating the U.S. Government had enjoyed since inception. They sat down with Obama and started to deal. Behind closed doors, just between them, they’d make a deal and then Obama would publically demand a different route. The lack of decent male role models in business dealings reared it’s head as Obama would agree to one thing and then come back demanding something else. He changed the terms demanding more revenues in taxes rather than cuts in spending. Boehner felt at the time that he was double crossed. Miniter’s account supports that. Of course, Obama blamed the failure of the budget negotiations on the republicans, and the US’s credit rating has been downgraded three times since.
How many of us stayed up way past our bedtimes on May 2, 2011 to watch Barack Obama, occupier of the most powerful seat in the world, stand behind a podium and before a teleprompter tell us that Osama bin Laden was dead, killed by SEAL team 6 and was buried at sea, giving details of the operation so that the whole world could hear the account? How many of us? Well, guess what, according to Miniter’s sources, as well as other pieces I’ve read since, not only did we hear it, but so did all the people in Osama’s network. Any intelligence picked up during the raid was useless at that point – and the information found, it seems, outlined where and who the entire Al Qaeda network was. According to the people in the 16 US intelligence agencies (why do we have 16 intelligence agencies?), this put us back to the beginning when it came to locating and neutralizing the terror network. Miniter’s telling of the story of Osama bin Laden’s killing is not substantially different than any of the others with the exception of giving President George W. Bush full credit for putting the intelligence assets in place that led to finding bin Laden. On that, Miniter is crystal clear. Miniter also goes to great lengths to describe Leon Panetta as taking his job seriously and being all but a thorn in Obama’s side once he was head of the CIA. Obama did not want to make any decisions. Panetta forced it. Yes, it is Panetta we have to thank for a successful operation when it came to eliminating an enemy. But, it was Obama who, in a rush to take credit for the entire ordeal, more or less made that the end of the story as intelligence had to start all over.
Next up in Miniter’s chronologically meandering book is the Israeli situation and Obama’s unrealistic expectations of some sort of Israel-Palestine peace due to Israel shrinking to its 1967 borders, which are plain and simply indefensible. The big argument is “settlements in the occupied territories.” There are times when Israel makes it difficult to be a good friend, but right now in history really is not one of them and asking this concession is pretty insulting. Again, not much different in the accounts in this book as in others, but there is an extensive biographical sketch of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. To put it mildly, Netanyahu is considerably more experienced than Obama and the impression is that he is holding on the best he can with the expectation that Obama will be voted out of office this fall.
Rounding out the six, Miniter gives one of the more complete accounts of the incident that brought light to Fast and Furious, the Department of Justice/CIA/FBI quagmire where substantially more than is needed for self defense firearms were allowed to “walk” into Mexico. As Rep. Issa’s investigation is unfolding, we are beginning to see just how illegal this operation was. What we may not see, and that Miniter explains, is that gun dealers were ordered to sell said firearms to people they normally wouldn’t due to background checks. Several of them requested letters from the government stating that this was the request as they are normally law abiding citizens and this was not kosher to them. And these were the legit dealers. The majority of the guns used in crimes were bought on the black market. There are also accounts of career federal law enforcement officers’ careers being submarined when they objected to the operation. No great surprise there, but the numbers were pretty damning. The lawlessness presented in Miniter’s account is stark and completely unacceptable for American law enforcement.
Miniter finishes this rather dense book with the question, “What Kind of Leader Is Obama?” Miniter seems to think that the comparison to Jimmy Carter is legitimate. He implies that Obama’s idea of leading is to try to ramrod major legislation through a lame duck period. Facing the reality of losing control of the House of Representatives in 2011, Obama did just as Carter did after he was defeated in 1980. He tried to pass leftist bills without any congressional negotiation. That just is not how leadership in this country is done.
Not that many Americans needed further proof that Barack Obama is an unfit amateur in the most visible position in the world, but Richard Miniter gives us more evidence that Obama does not know how to lead. He actually believes that one can lead from behind. He depends on advice from women in his circle who are not experts by any means on foreign policy subjects and avoids making decisions. He has no concept how to build trust with the people he needs to succeed and allows himself to be pushed into making decisions that are not only against the nation’s interest, but political kryptonite. And, almost worst of all, he takes credit for other peoples’ work, good and bad. The left likes to take the side of the underdog, but the underdog is not always in the right. Obama would do well to remember that.
Richard Miniter’s Leading From Behind someday will be a resource book for how the US got screwed up in such a hurry. The man elected to lead the nation didn’t know how to do the job.
Tags: 2011 budget talks, a, Benjamin Netanyahu, budget deal, Death of Osama bin Laden, eric cantor, healthcare, Israel, israel-palestine, John Boehner, leading from behind, Leon Panetta, michelle oba, michelle obama, nancy pelosi, Obamacare, Osama bin Laden, Osama bin Laden killing, palestine, political poison, Politics, queen bees, reluctant president, richard miniter, Valerie Jarrett