Civil War officers used to say that you can’t lead from the rear. Thousands of them gave their lives, leading their men the only way they knew how. No one asks Barack Obama to give up more than an occasional game of golf, but he still can’t bring himself to lead. In one of his administration’s many low moments, a White House aide explained Obama’s style as “leading from behind,” as though he were proud of it.The budget is a typical case in point. After four long years, Senate Democrats have finally been shamed into obeying the law and producing a budget. Patty Murray, the new chairman of the Budget Committee, says it will be unveiled on Wednesday, and there will be one day–Thursday–to “mark up” the budget, proposing and voting on amendments. The Republican House, meanwhile, will produce a budget as it does every year. We will be watching with great interest to see what Patty Murray’s proposal includes by way of taxes, spending and debt. If the “regular order” is followed, it is possible–unlikely, but possible–that the House and Senate budgets can be reconciled through compromise in a conference committee, and the federal government might actually have a budget for the first time in years.
So where is Barack Obama in this process? Nowhere, apparently. By law, he was required to produce his budget in February. He missed that deadline; no surprise there, as Obama’s regard for laws of all kinds is slight. The White House said Obama’s budget would be produced in March, but now the date has been pushed back to April. One might think that, with Congressional Democrats finally getting into the budget game after four years, Obama would want to play a role. You might even think he would want to lead. But no: it appears that he has not coordinated even with the members of his own party on the Hill, and his budget, when it finally sees the light of day, will be an irrelevant afterthought.
I once knew a judge who was pathologically incapable of making a decision. I felt sorry for him, but I always wondered: why on Earth would a man who would rather do almost anything than make a decision want to be a judge? Obama is a similar case. Why would someone who has no idea how to lead, who evidently has no desire to lead, want to be President of the United States?