Barack Obama’s quest for historic health-care legislation has turned into a parody of leadership. We usually associate presidential leadership with the pursuit of goals that, though initially unpopular, serve America’s long-term interests. Obama has reversed this. He’s championing increasingly unpopular legislation that threatens the country’s long-term interests.
I don’t think that’s quite right, though we’ve certainly witnessed a remarkable parody of leadership. Obama managed to take a popular cause and, at least in part due to a failure of leadership, make it unpopular. In doing so he has hurt his own popularity as well. As Samuelson noted, “In April, 57 percent of Americans approved of his ‘handling of health care’ and 29 percent disapproved, reports the Post-ABC News poll; in the latest survey, 44 percent approved and 53 percent disapproved.”