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A President Trying to Catch Up with His People

Bernard Goldberg

By Bernard Goldberg

Published Sept. 12, 2014

 A President Trying to Catch Up with His People
Mahatma Gandhi once said, "There go my people. I must follow them, for I am their leader." Gandhi, of course, was simply being humble. He was a great leader and a man of great courage, a man who freed his people and changed the course of history. They didn't call him Mahatma for nothing, a word linked only to those who are seen as good, wise and holy.

Barack Obama is also trying to catch up with his people. But he is not a leader motivated by high principle and courage. He is the kind motivated by the necessities of politics.

His speech on national television about defeating the terrorists of the Islamic State just happened to come as his poll numbers were hitting all time lows. It was a speech he could have, and should have, delivered a month ago. But his numbers were higher then.

According to a Fox News poll released just a few days ago, 59 percent of those polled say the United States is less respected than when Mr. Obama took office. Fifty-seven percent see him as "weak and indecisive." On his handling of foreign policy, only 34 percent approve while 59 percent disapprove. Overall, he gets a 38 percent job approval rating, which matches his all time low.

Mr. Obama saw that the American people were way out ahead of him in their desire to crush ISIS. Two beheadings of innocent Americans will do that. So in his speech, he tried to catch up with the American people — after all, he is our leader, and, oh yeah, the midterm elections are less than two months away.

He said we would defeat ISIS. That's what we wanted to hear, though it would have been nice if he said it with more passion and conviction. He said there would be no boots on the ground. Wise or not, that's what the American people want too.

So his poll numbers may go up a bit as a result of leading from behind. But it won't last. The American people have taken off their blinders. The Barack Obama who captivated more than half of America six years ago has left the building. He squandered his magic. And once the magic is gone, so is the credibility and respect.

After his speech, a commentator on television wondered what would happen if after a month or two the American electorate grew weary of our new war in the Middle East. Would the president go on national television again and pretty much say, never mind?

This is the man who drew a red line in Syria. And then told us he never drew a red line in Syria — the world did. This is the man who told the New Yorker that ISIS was a JV team and then clumsily and unbelievably told us he didn't quite say it. This is the man who just one month ago told the New York Times that the rebels on the ground in Syria were "essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth" but have now, thanks to Mr. Obama, become our boots on the ground in Syria to take on ISIS.

This is the man who just minutes after talking about the beheading of the second American journalist hit the links — and was caught on camera with a big smile on his face. When questioned, he said he should have been "anticipated the optics." But it wasn't optics that was the problem. The problem was that we have a president who one minute can tell us he was near tears when speaking to the journalist's family and the next minute have fun playing golf. It's unseemly. Even his supporters knew that.

The American people have looked behind the curtain. They are no longer mesmerized. They know Barack Obama is a great campaigner and a great fundraiser and that he loves to play golf. They also know that he's not a great leader. Unless you count checking out the polls and then leading from behind.

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