Bookmark and Share
Click to go to the home page.
Click to send us your comments and suggestions.
Click to learn about the publishers of and our mission.
Click to search for any word or phrase on our Website.
Click to sign up for an e-Mail notification only whenever we publish something new.
Click to remove your e-Mail address from our list immediately and permanently.
Click to read our pledge to never give or sell your e-Mail address to anyone.
Click to read our policy on re-prints and permissions.
Click for the demographics of the audience and our rates.
Click to view the patrons list and learn now to become a patron and support
Click to see job postings or post a job.
Click for links to Websites we recommend.
Click to see every cartoon we have published.
Click to read any past issue.
Click to read any think piece we have published.
Click to read any guest commentary we have published.
Click to view any of the art forms we have published.
Comment and read the comments of others at Readers' Corner
Road Scholar - the world leader in educational travel for adults. Top ten travel destinations for African-Americans. Fascinating history, welcoming locals, astounding sights, hidden gems, mouth-watering food or all of the above - our list of the world’s top ten "must-see" learning destinations for African-Americans has a little something for everyone.
Obama’s Leadership Style - African American Leadership - By Dr. Ron Walters, PhD - Editorial Board


I do not understand those people who criticize the President for taking his time to get public policy right, when much of the misery that has come to visit their lives is a result of public policy, in both the domestic and international arenas, formulated by the previous administration, that was founded on distorted information, tunnel vision and hasty judgment that produced ill-conceived decisions.

In fact, Vice President Dick Chaney said that with respect to the time being taken to arrive at a policy for Afghanistan that President Obama was “dithering.” But President George Bush’s response to 9/11 was to trash careful deliberation and hastily to proceed to initiate a conventional war against Iraq, when it was not at all certain that this kind of war would lead to the destruction of Al Queda or the capture of Osama bin Laden. And despite Bush’s failure to achieve his policy goals, he never rendered his decision to the kind of deliberative process Barack Obama is using.

As a former attorney, Obama’s style is the lawyerly pursuit of decision-making with respect to Afghanistan, initiating an open deliberative process that includes all of the relevant voices. With patient accumulation of the evidence, he can hear the arguments selling pros and cons on various scenarios and then come to a conclusion that is enriched by insight, intelligence, and hard data from it all. He has asked for a study of how some of the scenarios would be perceived by the people of Afghanistan, not just assume, as Chaney did, that America would be perceived as heroes, but including them in an assessment whether America could achieve its objectives.

Obama and Bush, however, have one thing in common with respect to war in the Middle East; they pursued these projects on an unquestionable premise. Bush had retribution for 9/11 as his goal; Obama has announced that the war in Afghanistan is “a war of necessity.” In both cases, the existence of an unchallengeable premise could lead to disaster, so in Obama’s case, the truth of the premise itself also needs to be part of the deliberations.

Part of the reason for taking time to deliberate is to respect the application of resources that are important to the style of objective reasoning. The Obama administration has sought to return to legitimizing science and thoughtful studies of unbiased institutions, not just narrow conservative ideology, as the source of its decision making.

But while deliberation in the context of diversity is positive, it is also frustrating because it often does not yield decisions as clear cut as those using ideology. This is illustrated by Obama’s dance with the Public Option in the health care policy debate, where he first supported it to get his constituency behind the health care fight; then he abandoned it when his aim was to attract Republicans to his side; then he split the difference when polls showed a majority of the American people supported it. Here, he was using not just objective deliberation, but a strong dose of pragmatic politics. I can hear Rahm Emanuel shouting that while it’s nice to lead from principle, Obama must keep his eyes on the larger objective of coming out of the health care debate with something – anything they can face elections with in 2010 and 2012.

Presidential leadership is complicated by the fact that any president must perform effectively in the three-legged stool of the Executive Branch, Congress and the public to get much done. In the Congress, President Obama can play a different game of leadership, giving the ball to the party leaders and supporting their calls when they are consistent with his political strategy. However, as the health care bills come out of both the House and Senate, there is a moment when he will have to exercise decisive leadership in the conference and then we will see whether pragmatic politics or principle will hold sway.

As leader of the Executive branch his style also permeates the agencies under his direction and it is likely to be here that one can get the clearest sense of his style of leadership. One of the lessons that we must learn from the past, is that for a nation as large as this one, with as many critical roles it has to play, leadership style is vital to the President’s success and that of the nation.

The public likes him, but is lukewarm on his handling of some issues. Whether his deliberative style changes will depend upon the damage conservative Democrats and Republicans are able to do to his agenda. Editorial Board member Dr. Ron Walters is the Distinguished Leadership Scholar, Director of the African American Leadership Center and Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park. His latest book is: The Price of Racial Reconciliation (The Politics of Race and Ethnicity) (University of Michigan Press). Click here to contact Dr. Walters.


If you would like to comment on this article, please do so below. There is a 400 character limit. You do not need a FaceBook account. Your comment will be posted here on BC instantly. Thanks.

Entering your email address is not mandatory. You may also choose to enter only your first name and your location.



Any article may be re-printed so long as it is re-printed in its entirety and full credit given to the author and If the re-print is on the Internet we additionally request a link back to the original piece on our Website.

Your comments are always welcome.

eMail re-print notice

If you send us an eMail message we may publish all or part of it, unless you tell us it is not for publication. You may also request that we withhold your name.

Thank you very much for your readership.

Your comments are always welcome.


November 5 , 2009
Issue 349

is published every Thursday

Executive Editor:
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield
Peter Gamble
Est. April 5, 2002
Printer Friendly Version in resizeable plain text format or pdf format.
Comment and read the comments of others at Readers' Corner
click here to buy & benefit BC
Cedille Records Sale