If President Obama were to enroll in an American government class, the professor would mark him absent on most days. In the first 100 days of his second term, the president has failed to show up to class, take notes and complete the daunting task of rising to the challenges facing him.
During his first term, the fresh, energized and newly minted president spent his first two years forging ahead, ignoring public opinion and strong-arming legislators to push through the Affordable Care Act, which largely led to the defeat of his party in the 2010 midterm election. Most of his political capital with Congress was spent on Obamacare, and he has not fully recovered even with representatives of his own party.
The split control of Congress along with a new breed of conservative Republicans and vulnerable Democrats in red states has continued to prevent the president from attaining tangible results in his second term. For instance in his second inaugural address, President Obama stated that climate change would be a top priority on his agenda. He has yet to even introduce a bill.
During the gun control debate, the president was absent during the negotiations and asked Vice President Biden to take the lead. The president must have forgotten that he too was a senator once even if it was for a brief period of time. He believed that relying on the emotional plea by the families of the Newtown victims would be enough to move the needle and pass gun control legislation in the Senate. When the Senate Democrats walked away from his proposal, he blamed the Republicans and called the National Rifle Association liars. Sure the president used the bully pulpit to shape his message and build a sympathetic case for the bill; however, he did very little to make it possible for vulnerable Democrats to embrace the bill.
The president has been absent on the Benghazi tragedy. On the day of the attack, the president held his prescheduled meeting with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and General Martin Dempsey. We still don't know what the president knew at the time of the attack and why he did not demand immediate action. Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey testified that they did not talk to the president again that night. Instead the president went to sleep and campaigned the next day, while terrorists senselessly tortured and killed an American ambassador (the first ambassador killed in 30 years) and three Americans. His hands-off approach makes it seem as if he was too busy dealing with campaign matters instead of managing an international crisis.
Now we are learning that the whistleblowers were just as perplexed as the rest of us when the administration was blaming the attack on the anti-Muslim video and the protest in Egypt instead of stating the obvious that the incident in Benghazi was a terrorist attack. Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya, stated that "everybody in the mission" believed it was an act of terror "from the get-go." The whistleblowers' statements reveal the administration's incompetent response to the crisis and the intentional misleading of information that they shared with the American people.
The president is absent on the international stage. He is unsure what to do about Syria following the claims that they have used chemical weapons. The president is waiting to hear from Europe and the United Nations before making any decision. He is basically quiet on North Korea despite their increasing nuclear threat and does not want to ruffle the feathers of the Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The president is absent on the economy. His narrow and stubborn focus on raising taxes and increasing spending prevents him from working on innovative solutions to jumpstart the economy and reduce government dependency. While most liberals and the president propose the need to help the less fortunate with government programs, his policy initiatives have lead to greater poverty and government dependency. A record number of 11 million people are receiving federal disability payments, and one in seven people live in poverty. Yet the president rarely mentions these staggering statistics. While the last unemployment numbers were slightly better and the housing market is improving, the economy remains sluggish and the dependency on government handouts is increasing and unsustainable.
The one area where is the president's absence has been helpful is the immigration reform debate. He is allowing the Senate to hash out the details and try to pass the "gang of eight's" bill. He recognizes that his involvement could derail the delicate process. It is the one area where his absence might actually lead to the only legislative victory for him this year.
If the first 100 days of his second term are reflective of the next three-and-a-half years, we can expect the American people to give the president a detention slip. We may grow tired of listening to his stories of playing golf with Tiger Woods, hosting late night parties at the White House and hanging out with Beyonce (although that is kinda cool). His detached and decentralized leadership style has led to the fallout in Benghazi and inaction in Syria as well as the failure of most of his second term domestic agenda items. The president needs to directly reengage in these debates with Congress and the international community and not simply by giving a campaign speech but by working towards viable and compromised solutions. Only then will President Obama be able to regain the confidence and approval of the American people and hopefully lead the country.