Where’s The Man of Steel When You Need Him?

Lane: Clark, where you going?
Kent: This is a job for Superman… I mean, I’ve got to find him.

I don’t get political on this blog too often. But like most folks these days I have been shaking my head at the current situation. Especially the last two weeks. I’ve been around a while and I have never seen such an appalling lack of leadership in our nation’s capitol. This country is in a crisis and yet no one seems to be in charge. Congress is on vacation, and President Obama might as well be, too.

Last week President Obama said “There is something wrong with our politics.”

You think?

I think that it is time to stop stating the obvious and start laying out a solution.

One conclusion I’ve come to is that is it going to be a long road to the 2012 election. A very long road. Election night 2008 I was happy Obama won but I was happier the damn thing was over. That election was a painful austerity. It felt like the longest in the history of mankind.

Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll. This one is going to be even more excruciating.

In Thursday’s Republican debate Bachmann said, “People are looking for a champion, they want someone who has been fighting.” That’s right. But please note those words come from a woman who a few seconds later patted herself on the back for passage of the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act, “so people could all purchase the light bulb of their choice.”

Yes, let’s not use a more efficient light bulb, one that uses 1/5 of the energy of the traditional bulb, and saves the country $12.5 billion annually, because that’s an intrusion by big government. Sometimes I wonder what planet these people hail from.

The first time I saw Barack Obama was on the Larry King Show in 2006. I wasn’t all that impressed. He seemed like a very conventional politician with very conventional ideas. I still feel that way to some extent.

Other’s don’t. Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), said Wednesday that Obama’s was “the most anti-business and I consider anti-American administration in my lifetime.”

That’s just bad form if you ask me. You know, I didn’t agree with any of Bush’s policies but I didn’t call him anti-American. A moron, maybe. A liar and a cheat. But I never questioned his patriotism.

Obama’s really under the gun right now. He’s getting it from both the right and the left. I’m a bit frustrated with the Prez, too. Up to now, I’ve liked his style. It’s almost Zen-like. He seems to lead like a Taoist sage would, using wu-wei or non-action, avoiding confrontation, speaking carefully and thoughtfully. A nice change of pace from the previous 8 years.

But as admirable as that approach is, it doesn’t seem to be working very well. I really have no idea what goes on in his head. Sometimes I have to wonder, though, if he isn’t in a state of deep denial. Something akin to that was suggested by Ron Reagan Thursday on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews,

. . . we are in a place right now where we really need a sort of transformative leader, and that was the sort of leader that President Obama promised he would be. He talked about being a transformative president. But once he got into office, we seem to discover now that temperamentally he is unwilling to break the furniture, tip over the system that already exists here, and really get down to the brass tacks of reforming the system that we all agree is broken. He just doesn’t seem to want to do that. And you get the feeling that what we really elected was a kind of center-right politician . . .

He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s dealing with people who want nothing more than his destruction – with people who are not trying to help the American economy, at least not for the next year or so. They want the American economy to suffer for the next year so that it will hurt him. That’s the kind of game they’re playing . . . He needs to call these people out. He needs to identify them and he needs to identify their tactics and their strategy as well.

The President talks a lot about tough choices, but he doesn’t seem to want to get tough himself. Perhaps the President could learn something from one of the greatest tough guys that ever lived, Japan’s most famous swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi.

Musashi (c. 1584–1645) was a ronin, a masterless samurai, who wrote The Book of Five Rings, a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy still studied today, not only by martial artists, but also throughout the business and political world. It’s considered a classic text on the subjects of leadership and management.

Mushash understood wu-wei, and he also understood that sometimes you gotta fight the fight. This is from the translation by Hidy Ochiai in A Way to Victory:

Whether a general of a foot soldier, a samurai must always carry two swords . . .

Understanding how to use each weapon correctly is crucial, as one must apply each weapon in the appropriate time and situation . . .

When you and your opponent are dragging on the fight in a particular posture, each knowing the other’s intentions, it is important that you completely change tactics in order to open the door to victory . . .

When there is no clear sign of an end to the combat between you and your opponent, you should immediately change your tactics by adopting a new and unexpected technique in order to overwhelm him.

It’s not a good idea to rely just on one sword, or one strategy. Obama doesn’t need to go after his opponents with a “ferocious personal assault,” as was reported earlier in the week. It’s not necessary to sink to their level. But it’s just common sense that if compromise and conciliation aren’t working, another approach needs to be employed.

If the President can’t change tactics, at least he could try to recapture the spirit of Obama in 2008. By the time the election was over, I was impressed with Barack Obama. I found him inspiring. His campaign was exciting. Some of his speeches, especially the one on race, were not only masterful, they were historic.

I didn’t expect Obama to be Superman, but I did expect to get a little more than I seem to be getting.  And frankly, I am not interested in seeing Obama fight for his job. I want to see him fight for our jobs.

We do need a champion. We need the Barack Obama of 2008 back again, that guy who convinced us that yes, we can, the man who said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Then what are we waiting for?

Along with some of my nutty theories, I’m also kind of proud of the fact that I can still recite this intro word for word.


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