Putin, Cameron and Obama: A vivid contrast in leadership

President Obama, styling / Image: Voces.huffingtonpost.com, used under Flickr Creative Commons license
Really, they're good policies! / Image: Voces.huffingtonpost.com, used under Flickr Creative Commons license

RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif., August 30, 2014 — While many members of the media seem preoccupied by President Obama’s fashion choices, those of us who live in the real world have a greater concern about his choice of priorities. He appears to place a more significant emphasis on political fund raising and delivering canned speeches than he does on developing cogent strategies and providing visible leadership.

Die-hard supporters may dismiss such charges, arguing that the president is diligently involved in the background, but the facts belie their zealous support.

In recent days, we have witnessed three distinctly different styles of leadership: Vladimir Putin’s “actions speak louder than words” tactics with respect to Ukraine; Prime Minister David Cameron’s direct and specific approach to the threat of ISIL; and the president’s laissez-faire attitude toward global crises.

Which do you consider the most effective?

Putin’s strategy is the most transparent. Whether we like it or not, we know where he stands because his actions are taken openly. He may publicly deny Russian involvement in Ukraine, but it is difficult to ignore evidence in the form of the tanks, missile systems, and large convoys he has authorized.

However, we get the impression that Putin really doesn’t care if his intentions are obvious. He only cares if someone responds to them. In that regard, he seems to believe that he, too, will have “more flexibility” during Obama’s final term.

Today, Prime Minister Cameron discussed the elevation of Britain’s terrorist threat level from “substantial” to “severe.” By the time he finished his comments, we knew what the elevated status meant, why it was changed, and how citizens of the UK should respond to it.

Cameron reflected upon the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley. He did not equivocate in his description of ISIL: “What we are facing in Iraq now with ISIL is a greater threat to our security than we have seen before.” He called it “the most important issue facing this country today.”

He distinguished ISIL from al-Qaeda and the Taliban: “With IS (ISIL), we are facing a terrorist organisation not being hosted in a country but seeking to establish and then violently expand its own terrorist state” while noting that it could not be “appeased.”

Cameron also provided the details of specific actions that would be taken. These included: the passage of new legislation to simplify the process of canceling extremists’ passports if there is probable cause to believe that they may be traveling in support of ISIL; the need to fill “gaps in our armoury” to address the ongoing threat posed by jihadists in the UK; and a push among member countries, who will be in attendance at this weekend’s European Union Summit in Brussels, for a more coordinated effort to track jihadists. The latter would restore a compact that previously enabled police and security services of EU members to share passenger records.

While some American pundits continue to blame President George W. Bush for inciting jihad as a result of the Iraq War, Cameron was quick to state, “The terrorist threat was not created by the Iraq War ten years ago. It existed even before the horrific attacks on 9/11, themselves some time before the War.”

He continued, “This threat cannot be solved simply by dealing with perceived grievances over Western foreign policy. Nor can it be dealt with by addressing poverty, dictatorship or instability in the region – as important as these things are. The root cause of this threat to our security is quite clear. It is a poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism that is condemned by all faiths and faith leaders.”

Meanwhile, President Obama went on record saying, “We will continue to consult with Congress … but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse; we don’t have a strategy yet.”

Cynics may say, “Why should we have a strategy?” After all, it was only this past January that the president dismissed the ISIL threat by saying, “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think it’s accurate, is if a JV team puts on Lakers’ uniforms, it doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”

However, we must realize that misinterpreting global issues and entities has been elevated to an art form by this Administration.

  • During the Arab Spring, the Obama Administration characterized Muslim Brotherhood as a “largely secular” and “moderate” group that did not have a large enough base to win the Egyptian Presidential election; assertions that it rapidly disproved on all counts. We committed to provide the Morsi regime with tanks and planes before they began persecuting Christians and women. Additionally, Morsi was revealed to have denounced Israelis as “blood-suckers”, “warmongers” and “descendants of apes and pigs.” Try to imagine how much more difficult the current Israeli/Hamas conflict would be had Morsi remained in power. Luckily, we were spared further embarrassment when Morsi was imprisoned and Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi replaced him as the sixth President of Egypt.
  • The Administration didn’t immediately embrace President el-Sisi because it had already acclaimed Morsi to have been “democratically” elected. Since that time, President el-Sisi has been an important ally in tamping down the conduit of munitions to Hamas’ terrorist organization in Gaza. While peace has yet to be achieved in between Israel and Hamas, the situation might be far worse had it not been for the el-Sisi regime.
  • Speaking of the war in Gaza, the Administration has done little to quell tension in that area. Despite having renowned Secretaries of State in Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, the situation in that area has degenerated rather than improved.
  • Then, there is President Obama’s famous “red line in the sand” in Syria. The President’s “calculus” was to change if chemical weapons were used by the al-Assad regime. Approximately 14 chemical weapons later, one was captured on video and the Administration was forced to react. Our Nation was posed to unleash a missile attack on Syria when calmer heads prevailed, which is a strange description to apply to Vladimir Putin. However, Putin stepped in and used his political leverage to back down the Assad regime and reach a settlement on a disarmament plan for its chemical weapons.
  • Speaking of President Putin, the Obama Administration has pummeled him with words and limited economic sanctions since he inserted Russia into the Ukrainian revolution. So far, those admonitions have severely intimidated him… except for Russia’s annexation of Crimea and recent relatively unveiled occupation of eastern Ukraine.
  • Meanwhile, North Korea remains as unstable as its leader and China has become comfortable buzzing our planes and beginning to encroach on territories it has desired for years but been hesitant to pursue.

With another September 11 on the horizon, we can only hope that the “fog of war” has cleared sufficiently to prevent the Administration from missing all the signals that the UK seems to have recognized. We might also wonder if the lessons learned in Iraq will make the administration less likely to take a victory lap when it completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of the president’s term.

Then again, it will just be the next president’s problem; perhaps leaving the door open for the next occupant of the Oval Office to blame the previous President as has been the recurring tactic of this Administration.

Correspondingly, President Obama has admonished several members of his Administration, including his Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, et al., for suggesting that a strategy needs to be put in place. According to the president, “folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are.”

Particularly in an election year, Party sycophants will try to rationalize the lack of a discernible strategy. We will undoubtedly be told that President Obama is “thoughtful” and his approach is “far more measured than Bush’s.” The President will rely on the phrase “no boots on the ground” well beyond its actual application, and he will use limiting terms like “for humanitarian purposes” and “to protect our citizens abroad” to explain the bombings he will authorize in lieu of troops.

The reality is that “no strategy” is a little too close to “no clue,” and we deserve better as a Nation.

If pundits were to pick a color to describe the leadership styles of Putin, Cameron and Obama, we might rightfully expect President Putin to be assigned a bold, primary color that leaves little doubt as to its wavelength, Prime Minister Cameron to be portrayed by a more refined, conservative color with a decisive hue, and President Obama to be defined as “beige.” Come to think of it, maybe that’s why there was such an interest in the president’s summer suit.

A Civil Assessment has been designed to serve as an Op-Ed forum for you. You are invited to offer your opinion and to discuss your position in the Comment Section. Please be sure that your “assessments” remain “civil” so that they may earn the respect of others.


TJ O’Hara provides nonpartisan political commentary every Tuesday on The Daily Ledger, one of One America News Network’s featured shows on AT&T U-verse and VerizonFiOS at 8:00 PM and Midnight PM Eastern / 5:00 and 9:00 PM Pacific. His segment appears about 35 minutes into the program.

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TJ OHara
T.J. O'Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States. Along the way, he earned the first Presidential endorsement of the Whig Party since the 1850s, his website was archived by the Library of Congress for its historic significance, and he won the first on-line “virtual” Presidential election (conducted by We Want You) by a commanding 72.1% and 72.7% over Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, respectively. His column explores our Nation’s most pressing issues, challenges conventional thinking, and provides an open forum for civil discussion. Learn more about TJ at his website and connect with him on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter (@tjohara2012). To order his books, go to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords or Sony Reader.
  • What do you recommend we do, both individually and collectively as a nation, to ensure we get better leadership going forward?

    • Clyde Picht

      One thing might be to elect a president who has a record of leadership, experience in business and politics, and who can enunciate solutions to both domestic and foreign policy issues instead of electing someone who merely sets a political precedent.

      • RGZ_50

        I dearly hope you are not thinking of Mitt Romney again. If we repeat that error then you can count on hearing the words, “Hello Madam President” spoken in January 2017.

        • Clyde Picht

          Obviously Hillary has the one qualification that many would support over all else. That being political precedent. She was asleep at the “RESET” switch for four years and there must be at least one Democrat who would actually be qualified for the job. Romney is but one of the qualified Republicans.

          • RGZ_50

            she was “asleep at the reset switch for four years” is a qualification? Really? O.K… Purely out of curiosity who are the other qualified Republicans (other than Romney) that you are thinking of?

  • Robert A. Murray

    An analysis in comparative leadership between President Obama and Mr. Putin is invidious at best. Stylistics aside, the governmental systems that these two executives represent are more an exercise in contrast!However…as recent responses to the murder of James Foley indicate…a comparison between President Obama and David Cameron may prove both more instructive and illuminating. Optics and metrics reveal one to be a disconnected, aloof and essentially unconcerned performer. The other demonstrated, by word and deed a concerned, involved and ultimately decisive level of leadership. Mr Cameron truncated his vacation, expressed umbrage and disgust and sought to define in some historic context the nature and intent of the threat. He then addressed Parliament and indicated in clear and concise detail what was from his perspective was required. Mr. Obama briefly diverted his attention for some six minutes to express…in no drama/Obama fashion….his disgust with the brutal manner of Mr. Foley’s demise, his sympathy for the deceased’s parents and some oblique reference to take action before returning to the links. The ultimate irony of this comparative analysis is that it emerges as a stark contrast. And the impression that one is left with is that of a performer versus a leader. We in the United States…particularly with nude 4chan revelations of many actresses…have more than enough performers. It is leadership that we need!

    • RGZ_50

      with all respect, I think you are reading more into the PM Cameron’s behavior of late than is indicated by the underlying circumstances. The reason Cameron is so animated right now is because he recognizes his party faces a legitimate threat in upcoming elections from the UK Independence Party. The British have finally gotten a bellyful of jihad and sharia minded immigrants and don’t see the Conservative party as their allies in solving the problem.

  • Joseph Biten

    I think we can all agree that Obama is a delusional menace.

  • Bestuv Burke

    Obama’s a joke.