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Wednesday, Mar 25, 2015

Reiniers: Obama an empty vessel?

More than Words


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Shakespeare said "I did never know so full a voice issue from so empty a heart. But the saying is true. 'An empty vessel makes the greatest sound.'"

Those lines are found in Henry V, written by the Great Bard centuries before America elected Barrack Obama as President. They resonated with this writer and brought to mind a piece Hernando Today published that I wrote five years ago characterizing Barrack Obama as a man in an empty suit.

At that time his only signature accomplishments were having won two Grammys for the Best Spoken Word; one for the CD version of his autobiography, and the other for The Best Spoken Word album for The Audacity of Hope. (Two books all about himself. How modest.)

Here is a man considered a mesmerizing speaker. But then I started thinking: "An empty vessel" - "the greatest sound." Substance is not an issue. The vessel is empty. The "Best Spoken Word" can also emanate from an empty suit which is often the case with politicians and other performance artists.

What is the better metaphor for Barrack Obama - An empty vessel or an empty suit? Read on.

All this came to mind when the media reported that President Obama and his HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius had only one meeting in 3.6 years to discuss the progress of Obamacare!

This is a breathtaking revelation which came on the heels of a report by the New York Times characterizing the relationship between HHS and Obama's chief of staff as "deeply dysfunctional." I'm sure that in short order, Obama's supporters will claim that the White House calendar is notoriously inaccurate.

It really doesn't matter how many times they met if he wasn't hands-on. That is not his style. He leads from behind even with what was to have been his signature legislative accomplishment.

No manager delegates a project without accountability - in this case, a scheme to run 1/6 of the U.S. economy - usually in the form of measurements, periodic reports and meetings with key staffers. Furthermore, he knew Sibelius is a career politician and had no practical life skills. Talk about the blind leading the blind.

Obama's response to his many critics was that "the challenge is not particularly my personal management style. . It actually has to do with what I referred to earlier, which is, we have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly ."

I could rest my case here about this president being an "empty vessel." We now have to believe that after five years on the job, he realizes what Republicans have been saying all along - that the federal government is a bureaucratic mess - too big and inefficient.

By any political or business standards, what he said is an astonishing confession at so many levels, that it is jaw dropping. He admits that he has no management style, that he has no idea how big government works, or can even work properly; that he has no idea how Health and Human Services is organized, that he doesn't understand accountability, that he assigned a highly technical job to the wrong person - a political hack - and finally, Obama of all people, makes the case for smaller government.

By any standards, he is a slow learner.

A point to be made is not only that the Obamacare rollout is a disaster, but that remarks such as these speak volumes about his presidency. His naivety is on full display as once again he discovers, too late in the game, that the American health care system is indeed complex.

This type of column is not my usual style. As my byline suggests, I prefer to be fact based and go beyond opinion. And yet here I'm motivated by casual statements the President made.

Barrack Obama is living proof that voters must be more discerning when they vote for candidates. When Obama first ran for president many commentators were alarmed at his lack of credentials. As Shakespeare would have said, he was an "empty vessel" who talked a good game. He had no credentials as an accomplished businessman; a high ranking field grade officer; a governor; a senator; a person of national stature; or a professional anything.

A president cannot be an expert in everything. He or she has to put a team together to ensure the necessary expertise is in place. So with that in mind demonstrable leadership is really the only quality that should give voters some assurance of a successful presidency.

Other than being a media created celebrity, Obama was better known for what he hadn't accomplished. What speaks volumes about the lack of gravitas about the man is when Michelle Obama said the defining moment of his life was his early years as a community organizer - not his 12-year stint as a senior lecturer of law at the University of Chicago (not full-time or tenure-track), his seven years as one of the unknown 59 Illinois state senators, or the handful of months he served as U.S. senator.

Nope. Not one of these accomplishments. His crowning achievement was as a community organizer and social activist in his mid-twenties, doing such things as conducting leadership training classes at a Chicago public housing site. One wonders how a 23 year-old can be so qualified with no life's experiences. The country is paying a price for that now with ironically - no leadership.

So what is Obama? An empty vessel or an empty suit? Now that we've had six years of the media telling us the President is a world class rhetorician, and now that I've read Shakespeare, I prefer empty vessel. The President "makes the greatest sound." After five years in office he has graduated from being a mere empty suit to an empty vessel.

Form over substance is what has defined his presidency.

John Reiniers is a retired attorney who is a regular contributor and lives in Spring Hill.

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