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ROLAND S. MARTIN: No One Fears President Obama

09/02/2011 8:24 am 6 comments

The White House loves to trumpet the idea that one of President Barack Obama’s greatest virtues is how he operates above the fray, choosing not to waste time with the political battles in the trenches.

“No-Drama Obama” is who we heard about during the 2008 presidential campaign, about how his cool, calm demeanor was his biggest asset. But look at how the GOP forced the president’s hand on extending the Bush tax cuts; how it created political hay out of the debt ceiling and led the nation to lose its triple-A credit rating; and now how it grossly disrespected him by rebuffing him while he spoke to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.

And now, I think it’s fair to ask: When will Obama strike back and exert some presidential muscle?

No doubt Obama has taken an aggressive position in going after al-Qaeda. We have taken out far more of the terror group’s leaders than we did under President George W. Bush. We’ve killed Osama bin Laden and the group’s number-two leader in Pakistan. And even the most belligerent of hawks can’t complain about Obama’s decisions in Libya and Afghanistan.

But the 2012 election will not be decided on foreign policy. The economy will trump all of that. And on that note, Obama looks like a man who, despite all the trappings of the most powerful position in the world, refuses to assert any of his authority.

Obama’s unwillingness to flex his muscle was first seen when Democrats were ready to tar and feather Connecticut Sen. Joe Liebermann for his stern opposition to then-Sen. Barack Obama, who was battling against Sen. John McCain. Democrats wanted to strip Liebermann of his committee assignments, but Obama squashed that, saying it wasn’t necessary. How did Liebermann repay the president for his support? By being a thorn in his side during the health care debate.

I would say that when you save someone’s butt, it’s fair to think you can lean on him when you need to. Didn’t happen.

When the obscene AIG bonuses became public in early 2009, the American people reacted angrily, wanting to take off the heads of Wall Street executives. The White House, however, responded with delayed righteous indignation. Then it did nothing.

The president talks tough with banks one day and then extends the olive branch the next. At the same time, the banks put the screws to the American people, taking the homes of the taxpayers who lent the fat-cat bankers billions and kept them from losing their multiple-million-dollar mansions.

What did JP Morgan Chase leader Jamie Dimon do? He criticized Obama for picking on bankers, saying it was wrong to keep blaming them, despite the fact that their destructive plans of jacking up quarterly stock prices with foul schemes nearly destroyed the world financial system. So the president helped fatten their balance sheets and they still dumped on him? Has he jumped on their banks for refusing to modify loans? Nope. Their plan of action, according to HUD Secretary Shawn Donovan, is voluntary.

It is abundantly clear that Obama is unwilling to fire back at the critics who disrespect him and the office of the president.

He wants to take the high ground, while his critics are ripping the earth out from beneath him. Instead of taking charge of his agenda, he’s willing to let others blow him off to pursue their own.

When he took office, President Obama decried the ways of Washington, saying that voters didn’t want to see acrimony. But they sure as hell want to see a president fight for what he believes in — even if that means losing a battle or two.

The White House bowed to Republicans in the Senate in not appointing Elizabeth Warren as head of the Consumer Protection Bureau. The GOP considered Warren enemy number one. So by appointing Richard Cordray, the Obama Administration hoped that the Senate would take a break and make Cordray a recess appointment. Except for one tiny problem: the only thing the GOP hated more than Warren was the bureau itself. They didn’t recess, and now Cordray will be put through the ringer on Tuesday during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Has the president made a bigger stink about the GOP refusing to allow his appointees to move forward? Yes, every now and then, but it’s nothing close to the heat President George W. Bush and his supporters put on the U.S. Senate when his conservative judges and appointees were being held up.

Maybe White House Senior Advisor David Plouffe and campaign manager Jim Messina think that Obama’s tactic is appealing to independent voters. But the president’s unwillingness to go to the mat — on anything — has angered some of his ardent supporters, who feel as if the White House will leave them hanging in the wind when it’s time to fight.

After his Martha’s Vineyard vacation, Obama signaled that he was ready to do battle leading up to the 2012 election. But the bungling and eventual capitulation over when he would address a joint session of Congress to present a massive jobs bill shows that we have seen more of the same: Obama takes decisive action only to back down shortly thereafter and acquiesce to the GOP.

After buckling to Speaker John Boehner on the speech, a friend of mine — a hard-core Democrat who hates anything the GOP does and has never voted for a Republican for president — texted me the following: “Does the POTUS need back surgery? I think he does. He needs a spine transplant.”

President Obama’s feeble attempt to engage his foes is angering those who are ready to do battle and have his back. I’ve heard it from folks in the labor movement, civil rights leaders, women and young people. And don’t be surprised if polling shows that Independents want a president who will stick to his guns, even if they disagree with him on policy.

Americans respond to decisiveness. They respond to a leader who makes clear what he wants and will use the power of the presidency to lead his troops up the hill to take on those who oppose him.

Right now, it appears that President Obama is trying not to lose, as opposed to working to win. And that simply ain’t gonna cut it.

Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and author of the book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as Originally Reported by Roland S. Martin.” Please visit his website at To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


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  • Anonymous

    Mrs. Obama said the President is stubborn but there’s a time bomb ready to explode. Unleash Mr. President.

  • Anonymous

    Also too, the Democratic Party don’t respect the President.  Look how Pelosi, Reid, and the other hooligans debacle the healthcare for their ego.

  • Chuck

    I beg to differ with your headline. There are those who DO fear him: Africans.

    Ask the African blacks in Libya currently being killed by the so-called Rebels just because they’re black. Ask them if they fear President Obama! Rebels being supported militarily by the Obama administration in the US/ NATO overthrow of a sovereign nation. Ask the innocent people being killed by US drones if they fear Obama.

    Here’s an email I submitted to you earlier today about your last segment with Colin Powell:

    Roland/ Brothaa,’ if the Colin Powell interview is what we can come to expect from you in the future, keep it! Yes, you interviewed the former Secretary of State and you can add that to your resume or promo tape. But that’s about it!

    You had the opportunity to cut through all the government-inspired propaganda being spewed via CNN and other corporate media about what is really going on in Libya. Instead, you took the CNN-framing of “Kaddafi going after his own people.” Says who? Where is the visible and tangible evidence that Kaddafi was killing his own people? And exactly what is ‘killing is own people?’

    Is what transpired in the spring of 1970 here in the United States of America an example of the US going after or ‘killing its own people’?

    If some black folk – or any people — rise up and violently take to the streets taking on police and authorities, and if the police shoot them down, is that ‘killing our own people’? Would the UN and NATO intervene into the affairs of the US? I think we both know the answer to that. I think the story would be framed within the context of the rule of law.

    What about what Kaddafi was doing in Africa? What about his significant contribution to the African Union, his tangible work toward the United States of Africa, his majority investments in the AU and securing satellites for the continent, his move toward the creation of an African monetary system that would break the cycle of debt bondage and choke hold the IMF and World Bank has on Africa? Is it true Kaddafi refused to accept Europeans in this new monetary system? Is it true he was secretly working to convert to a gold standard, wanting to be paid in gold for Libyan oil?

    What about CIA involvement, along with France, UK and other western powers being the real force behind the overthrow of a sovereign nation? What was the standard of living like in Libya during ‘the brutal’ Kaddafi’s reign, what is the educational level of its citizens, what does it cost for Libyans to go to college?
    Who are these ‘rebels?’ What about the black Africans currently being slaughtered by the so-called rebels simply because they are black? These are black people, the same as you and I. Reportedly, many of them are migrant workers. What about the impact this will have on sub-Saharan nations? Speaking of which – what do AU members think of all this? You have African diplomats in DC, right?

    What is happening in Africa right before our very eyes is the re-colonizing of the continent and no one is reporting on it – at least in this part of the world.

    Instead of throwing softballs at Powell about the out-dated and neutered NAACP, how about asking him about his personal involvement in the overthrow of the Aristide government? What about his ill-fated UN presentation (or lies) about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction?

    What about the son of an African sanctioning the overthrow of Africa’s most wealthy nation? Obama likes to quote MLK but Dr. King would have never stood silently without speaking out against the atrocity that is taking place in Libya.

    As an alternative news source, TV One’s Washington Watch has the opportunity to make news. You shouldn’t be parroting what the others say. Come on, Roland. Be the gifted communicator that you are. CNN would never let you express your true self. Push the envelope, brothaa.’ Your show should be used weekly for attribution. Make news!

    We need you to think critically, to question the conventional story line. Please, please, Roland, do some research on some of the questions and points I’ve posed in this letter and put it out there for debate and discourse. And get some folks on your show who aren’t afraid to criticize Obama! Help us separate fact from fiction.

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful consideration.

  • MidloAngel

    Amen! Amen!

  • Larry

    Roland how come if anyone does not agree with Obama they are raciest? Also because of CNN all for Obama in 2008 they lost viewers. Now the Dems had the house and senate for 2 years why didn`t they pass a jobs bill? BECAUSE Obama couldn`t get the votes so now he tries and blames the GOP.  HOPE Herman Cain replaces Obams we need a business person who has created jobs.

  • Anonymous


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