Does Obama have a vision?

At Time, Mark Halperin writes:

Who would have thought that one of Barack Obama’s biggest missteps as president would be repeating some of the bad habits of George W. Bush? No single factor was more instrumental in Obama’s 2008 victory than his pledge to completely reverse the nation’s course once in the White House. Instead, over the past year, Obama has mimicked some of Bush’s most egregious blunders, leading to much of the political predicament in which the present decider finds himself today.

This is not to say that Obama has maintained Bush’s policies, although his administration’s continuity on issues ranging from Afghanistan to Wall Street has alienated the left. And he certainly hasn’t done himself any favors by failing to inspire the general public to rally around his agenda. But Obama’s stumbles atop the high-wire of running the federal government has created perhaps the greatest danger to his presidency, and they are oddly reminiscent of the misguided practices which tripped up his predecessor.

Reuters reports:

President Barack Obama will outline his administration’s vision for space agency NASA and an eventual trip to Mars during a conference in Florida in April, the White House said on Sunday.

Obama has had to defend his commitment to the space agency in the politically important U.S. state after submitting a budget to Congress that would cancel a program to return U.S. astronauts to the moon.

Obama wants to refocus NASA efforts on technologies to prepare for human missions to other destinations in the solar system.

In Mark Halperin’s analysis of the failings of the Obama administration the key word is “missteps”.

Journalists these days love judgement-free terms like this. Another favorite is “recalibrate”. These words evoke an image of political conduct that suggests Washington is a machine (usually poorly oiled) and the president is the master mechanic. He will do swimmingly well if he can just figure out exactly where to apply the lubricants. Up steps an old hand like Halperin, happy to advise which are the squeaky wheels that need fixing.

No doubt Obama is lacking in executive experience but unfortunately his problems seem to run much deeper than that. If he is unencumbered by Bush’s ideological rigidity, this appears to have less to do with being his being more intellectually nimble than with his being more shamelessly cynical.

The latest example of Obama’s cynicism is that he isn’t willing to ditch the scientifically unjustifiable objective of a human mission to Mars. One can only assume that this decision is driven by his fear that to abandon such a project would make him appear less adventurous, less visionary than his predecessor — even though when Bush announced that objective it was decried by scientists unwilling to indulge in the former president’s comic-book fantasies.

If Obama’s problem is less mechanical and more attitudinal, what’s he going to do? Tell us he realizes that in his first year he approached his job with too much cynicism but he’s recently had some good discussions with Axelrod and once again he’s rediscovered his inspirational core?

Of course cynicism isn’t a misstep and it can’t really be fixed — only exposed and condemned.

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