EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Opinion

June 30, 2013

Column: Obama trip leaves big decisions behind

President Barack Obama tweeted his support and admiration for the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, proving once again his dedication to the increasingly popular method of communication.

The “Where’s Waldo” of American politics did this on his way to Africa on a seven-day trip that will cost the nation’s taxpayers an estimated $60 million to $100 million, at a time when every department and office in his administration, including the military, is faced with large budget reductions. Why is he making this trip? No one seems to be certain other than to visit the continent of his ancestry.

In the meantime, Congress is debating and voting on the most important immigration reform in many decades. Economic problems continue. Obama has been noticeably absent in the efforts to find and bring back super-leaker Edward Snowden, and he just launched one of his sweeping initiatives -- this one to save the world from global warming.

The list of crucial issues that he seems to leave up to others, either the Congress or his staff, grows almost daily.

Assessing his performance in the first six months of his second term, one can reasonably conclude that his reluctance to be directly involved with much of what is going on in Washington -- to get down and dirty, so to speak -- leaves his leadership rating among the lowest in recent memory.

The clue to what we were in for came earlier this year, when Obama allowed four senators from his own party to scuttle a gun control measure that was supported by an overwhelming number of Americans.

His benign handling of the fight over universal background checks to buy firearms left even his most prominent Democratic supporters shaking their heads. Analysts explained that he doesn’t like heavy-handed persuasion. Clearly, he prefers the bully pulpit to the nitty gritty of politics, leaving it to his supporters on Capitol Hill and to advisers who have been somewhat ineffective at best. The stump speeches are great; the personal follow-through lousy.

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