The Second Term

A common point made in the run-up to the recent presidential election was that Obama's re-election made history. There is one clear reason for the facuality of this assertion: not since Franklin D. Roosevelt had a majority of voting Americans re-elected a president with such a high unemployment rate. 76 years...1936 for Roosevelt and 2012 for Obama. That is genuinely historic. It brings me to an … [Read more...]

Beneath Obama’s Announcement This Morning

Later this morning, President Barack Obama will deliver a speech at the Department of Justice. The topic will be his conclusions on surveillance by the national government. The speech follows several months of controversy unleashed by Edward Snowden's leaking of information on how the government has gathered data on citizens and groups. I want to remind you of what's beneath this speech and the … [Read more...]

The Links Of Syria

A participant in my recent Workshop on leadership and credibility asked a great question: what are the key historical connections with the Syrian civil war and the US interaction with it? Super question. Here is my thought: five jump to mind. First, the current situation in Syria points to something I've been pounding on for the past three years. We are reliving the replaying of the late 1930s. … [Read more...]

Obama And Circularity

No political point-scoring. I'm not interested. What does interest me very much is to note something that I think you'd agree is a weird part of life. Circularity. How many times have you seen or watched something at one point in your life, perhaps criticized the person or people involved, and then discovered that at a later point many of the same circumstances and issues suddenly find their way … [Read more...]

Barack Obama And The Trend Of Turnaround

When a leader faces a period of trouble, of difficulty, it's likely he or she will turn to something that they see as their strength. I note this by way of observing that in the last week or so President Barack Obama has made two major speeches during a period of sinking poll numbers, rising controversies, and worsening tensions. First, he spoke about nuclear weapons in Berlin, Germany. Second, he … [Read more...]

Two Points–Short Term and Long Term

Two points or takeaways in leadership can be found in the unfolding story of Benghazi. I'll categorize them as short-term and long-term. The short-term point is the answer to the question of: why did the Obama Administration seek to change the facts of the event? It was electioneering, campaigning, politics. That's it, no more and no less. It's certainly not the first time such things have been … [Read more...]

Fad Phrases

If you follows the news, you might have noticed a phrase in speeches, articles, and commentaries. It's "game-changer." Right now, this phrase pops up in communication about foreign policy, national security, and war, meaning that something new or different as a decision or action will fundamentally shift the nature or state of things. President Obama has repeatedly invoked the phrase when talking … [Read more...]

1937 and You

In 1937, Franklin Roosevelt embarked on the first year of his second presidential term. Throughout the year, he had probably four key points in his mind. These points guided and fueled his approach to the presidency in 1937. They were: 1. Focus on overcoming those very specific entities that were most hostile to his domestic policies. 2. Seek to win victories in the upcoming off-year election, … [Read more...]

FDR and BHO: Two Plans

I recently conducted a Leadership Now Workshop on Franklin Roosevelt's second presidential term as a lens for looking at the upcoming second presidential term of Barack Obama. My point was that this lens might lay down certain markers to illuminate the course of the next four years. If you have to plan, vision, and strategize as a leader, in other words look ahead, it helps to have markers. Among … [Read more...]

Three Families in the White House

There is no question but that the family and family life of Barack Obama has been a singular part of his presidency. It's also been a singular part of how we as the American public and people have lived in his presidency. Press and media coverage have emphasized the Obama marriage, the Obama parenting, and the Obama family generally. I'd say that's been a good thing. Here's the bigger point. When … [Read more...]

The 2012 Presidential Election: A Few Days’ Perspective

Elsewhere on my website, in The Commonplace Book to be exact, you'll see that I've written a short piece on the 6 truly important presidential elections in the American experience. I wonder if I will add the 2012 to the list? Right now, a couple of days later, I'll share my inclination--though with the caveat that I may change my mind. I'm not inclined to list 2012 as Number 7. I don't think I … [Read more...]

A Tizzy Of The Wrong Type

Today there is an uproar among the political, punditry, and politics-geek classes. It's about Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney's remarks about the 47% of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes. As I understand it, Romney spoke off-handedly at a fundraiser some weeks ago about this slice of the American public as being overly dependent on the federal government and largely devoted … [Read more...]

Two Statements, Two Presidents, Two Very Different Leaders

I'll let the words speak for themselves. President Harry Truman, a Democrat: "The buck stops here." President Barack Obama, a Democrat: "There's more than enough blame to go around." When it comes time to vote for leadership, I'll take the one from Independence. … [Read more...]

Before You Get Too Wrapped Up

We're headed straight toward another US presidential campaign season. Actually, we're in it right now. Before the event gets you too wrapped up or soured out, whichever the case may be, I'd like to offer a small piece of perspective. In more ways that we might imagine, the American presidential election is a phenomenon into itself. It is unique, and one of our unique contributions to the … [Read more...]

I Think I Was Ahead Of The Curve

Yesterday, one of the political columnists for whom I have the most respect, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal, wrote an article on the remarkably strong similarities between Barack Obama's 2012 re-election campaign and Franklin Roosevelt's 1936 re-election campaign. I point this out in light of a fact that Henninger didn't know (sigh): back in August 2011, nine months ago, I first … [Read more...]

A Prediction About What’s Happening: Covert War And The Obama Adminstration

Based on what I've read, I have this prediction--when we're better able to read classified information, we'll learn that the Obama Administration has been involved in waging a covert war against Iran. At the least, this involvement will pertain to sharing critical information with the Israelis, the British, or both. I say this because there has been a spate of unusual events relating to … [Read more...]

A Confession About Late 2008

Nearly three years ago, in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 presidential election and Barack Obama's entry into the presidency, I decided to offer a leadership seminar that included Obama. I put together a session looking at the leadership experiences of Obama, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Booker T. Washington. Given Obama's emergence as the self-proclaimed first black president, I thought the … [Read more...]

Afghanistan: A Question From A Client Session

I haven't done this a great deal but I thought you might be interested. Yesterday, at a session with a client (the top management of an organization), I received a question on President Obama's upcoming speech on Afghanistan. At the time of my session, the speech had not yet been made. This person wanted to know my historical "take" on it ahead of time. As it turned out, I didn't watch or listen … [Read more...]

Magnet and Vacuum

One of the greatest blessings of my life is that I get the privilege of having some extraordinarily interesting conversations. Such happened this morning. I will keep the identity of my conversational partner secret. I will, however, divulge a point made in our talk, one that I find highly intriguing. You might, too. The point was this--there is a difference between a magnet and a vacuum. Think … [Read more...]

Aha! I Was Right: The First Sighting of Barack Obama and Woodrow Wilson

Maybe two weeks ago or so, I wrote a blog post that outlined the similarities between Barack Obama and Woodrow Wilson (U.S. president from 1913-1921). Lo and behold, in this morning's online version of The Weekly Standard there was a quotation from a general U.S. history book written about 50 years ago. The quote was from someone describing Wilson. The journalist who quoted the piece used it as a … [Read more...]