in defense of ‘dithering’

Timothy Egan (New York Times): Five years ago a young politician who seemed wise beyond his years was asked by Tim Russert what makes a great president … he took a thought breath before proceeding: “Obviously, most of the time it seems that the president has maybe 10 percent of his agenda set by himself, and 90 percent of it set by circumstance.”

Barack Obama: meet your 90 percent. The senator who so accurately predicted how events make the leader now finds himself a president trying to lead through those events.

….Libya ….In his deliberative fashion, Obama ultimately saved countless lives in the short term, and will allow the rebels in Libya to own their revolution in the long term, if they can push ahead….

What Obama wanted to avoid … was the “messianic certainty” that led President George W. Bush to start a disastrous, trillion-dollar occupation of Iraq. In putting together an international coalition, backed by a United Nations resolution and the Arab League — all in record time — Obama also pulled off a nice bit of statecraft…

Still, Republicans can’t cope with a president who tries to think before he leaps. Mitt Romney, who wakes most mornings in a groggy scramble to find his principles, faults Obama for the nuance of his Libya policy. How dare the president see shades of gray instead of black and white!

Newt Gingrich first criticized Obama for not imposing a no-fly zone, but now hits him for imposing a no-fly zone. You read that right…. Obama’s least-thoughtful critics attack him for thinking….

….His 90 percent of circumstances started on Inauguration Day, when Bush handed him the worse recession since the Great Depression, and continued through an oil spill that nearly poisoned an entire ecosystem.

During the spill, it was liberal cable pundits who wanted a president who could shout, emote and point fingers. Instead, he quickly negotiated a $20 billion escrow fund from BP that attempts to make whole those hurt by the spill. Similar success followed with the auto bailout, which saved General Motors, but cost Obama much of his early political capital.

…A poll just published by Reuters/Ipsos found 48 percent of respondents describing Obama’s military leadership as “cautious and consultative.” Another 36 percent chose “indecisive and dithering.”

I would argue that the combined 84 percent are basically saying the same thing — that this president is anything but impulsive. And next year, with an improving economy in a world where the United States is held in much higher regard, most people will probably choose a president who takes time to get it right, rather than one who is afraid to dither for a good outcome.

Full article here

42 Responses to “in defense of ‘dithering’”

  1. 1 Andogriff
    March 25, 2011 at 10:05 am

    Love me some Tim Egan, what a brilliant, thoughtful article, and great clip from the Russert interview. Thanks again Ms Chips, for all your great posts!

    • March 25, 2011 at 10:10 am

      Morning Andogriff 😉 Loved the article too, especially where he picked up on the fact that ‘thinking’ is viewed by Republicans as a weakness!

  2. 3 Chi
    March 25, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Spot on Tim…

  3. 6 Fred
    March 25, 2011 at 10:24 am

    some people are seeing The Light;I have hope

    morning Chip;Ando;and Chip 😉

  4. 7 CTGirl
    March 25, 2011 at 10:32 am

    You would think that after feeling/seeing what the ‘cowboy mentality’ did to our country and the world, we would all embrace our president’s cautious approach to everything. He told us, he does not get too high or too low, we have a rock steady president and I am loving that!

  5. 8 CTGirl
    March 25, 2011 at 10:34 am

    G’morning Chipsticks! Fabulous posts this morning!!! Thanks for that!

  6. 10 V C prezOfan2
    March 25, 2011 at 10:41 am

    Morning Chips and the gang! Good to be here with you this Friday morning, before hitting the road. I started this morning by looking first at the video (haven’t read the article yet) and I don’t know about you guys, but once again I see the President’s honesty, his insight, and his awareness of what the job entailed, even way back when the general consensus was that he was ‘inexperienced’. He clearly knew what he was getting into in a general sense, and I daresay he had more of a presidential goal than many others who wanted to obtain the post. IMO we need to send this refresher video around to remind people he knows what he wants to accomplish in the country/world.

    Have a terrific day, Family Chipsticks!

  7. 13 Dorothy Rissman
    March 25, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Good morning everyone. It is still early on the West Coast. I am back to fight the good fight for our president.

    This is a great pieces Chipsticks.

    • March 25, 2011 at 11:01 am

      Morning Dorothy, great to see you’re still in fighting form! 😉

      • 15 Dorothy Rissman
        March 25, 2011 at 8:16 pm

        It is pretty sad, but we have to fight. I spend so much time sending articles to friends who have various doubts. I almost thought one of my best friends and I might have a falling out because she “heard” that Obama got involved with Libya because he was helping big businesses who are in it for the oil. EEEEEEEEEEEK! Hopefully we can work it out.

  8. 16 zizi
    March 25, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Interesting read. However, I don’t like the affirmation being given tot he Repug meme “dithering”. Even if Egan is calling it a virtue, that still endorses a concept that is not true of this President. Being deliberative is NOT dithering.

    And I am at a loss to see how making decisions at a speed that has never been accomplished is being called “dithering”. How long between when Bush went to the united Nations in October 2002 did the operations in Iraq actually start? How long before Clinton intervened in Bosnia, Kosovo? How long between Saddam Hussein’s annexing of Kuwait before Operation Dessert Storm began?

    Both naysayers and so-called defenders are putting this President through an impossible obstacle-course and when he surmounts the odds in breathtaking ways, they relabel his brilliance, “tardiness”. Moving goalposts all the time is what the corporate media and so-called liberal defenders routinely do with this President.

    And mark my words, when he is out of office, the next President will be coddled and treated with deference. Do you see any one say a word about the current GOP controlled congress’ do-nothing & drastically reduced work schedule? No. Tragic, really.

    • March 25, 2011 at 11:11 am

      Hi Zizi, I was surprised at first, too, to see Egan use the word dithering, but my take from it is that while the GOP might label it ‘dithering’, he views it as the President just putting some thought (oh no!) in to issues before making major decisions. If anything, I thought he was just using the word as a sarcastic dig at the GOP?? ie “Obama’s least-thoughtful critics attack him for thinking”.

      • 18 Lovepolitics2008
        March 25, 2011 at 12:57 pm

        You are right. But just repeating the word is spreading it. And makes Frank Luntz happy. The republicans use this trick so often. Democrats, AND journalists always fall into the trap.

    • 19 Chi
      March 25, 2011 at 11:12 am

      You are absolutely right Zizi…

    • 20 Betty's Girl
      March 25, 2011 at 11:42 am

      You are talking to me this morning. How can the Dems let the congress get away with this. They just refuse to fight back. Repubs have no intention of doing anything for the next two years just as the previous two years. The Repubs would’ve have turned this into a major issue. I watched “mouth ol mighty” Anthony Weiner on O’Donnell show the other night saying how the HCR bill be reversed by the Supreme court. Why would he say something so negative? That really does shore up the troops. I always say the President doesn’t have any good Generals or Lieutenants. Pelosi seem to be sleep at the wheel.

    • 21 Kelly
      March 25, 2011 at 1:13 pm

      Zizi I agree with you but the writer had to use the word in order to refute the meme.

      As far as the next President….. 6 years from now. The dislike American corporate news MSM has for the present president will not end in his two term, if he says A there will be a drum beat of fake outrage from the usual suspects, why didn’t he say B. So do not despair he is doing an exceptional job and come Jan 20th 2016 when a new Pres is inaugurated no matter how that President is treated on his first day Jan 21, 2016 and beyond… we the supporters, the generation of the greatest most progressive president ever, Barack Obama can and will be to standing proud of him. I know personally will never let anyone forget the great works of President Barack Obama. Same way the elders in my family looks at images of JFK with pride, or images of Mandela, I will reflect on this big eared, skinny,prematurely gray with the world on his shoulder )yet more handsome than ever), funny name(i actually love that name) lovely, caring guy with the same immense pride. Sorry getting emotional….. *cue the sappy music* lol *ok wiping tears* ❤ 😀

      • 22 Dorothy Rissman
        March 25, 2011 at 8:26 pm

        I agree Kelly, he was belittling the repugnants and the frustratis constant use of the word. Putting dithering in quote mark notated how the doubters are always belittling the president. Not just on this issue, but everything. Thank goodness President Obama has a bigger ego, confidence, than I do. I would be bawling myself to sleep every night.

        PS, Having a healthy ego is a good thing. Most president do not. That is what drives everybody crazy.

  9. 23 meta
    March 25, 2011 at 11:17 am

    Good morning, Chips. Thanks for this article and I agree with Zizi on the framing.

    Also, this new video is really beautiful:

    President Obama’s Condolences for Japan (English & Japanese)

  10. 28 hgerhard
    March 25, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Good morning, everyone. I have to admit, I cannot get very excited about the supposed weakness in the President’s “dithering”. It is so absolutely clear to me that President Obama acts -carefully and deliberately – always with the outcome in mind, not the immediate political advantage. This is exactly the kind of President we need. The rest of the world understands it, and for that reason the United States is once again held in high regard. In the long run, it is exactly the thoughtful leadership of President Obama and his unprecedented and highly welcome message of “our common humanity” that will shape the better future in which wars will not be the inevitable way to solve differences and problems.

    • 29 Theo67
      March 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm

      So right – what would a parent want their child to learn? To act without thinking? To be a bully? To be impulsive and irrational,and have no critical thinking skills. These are the characteristics that Republicans are raising up as “admirable”. Or would they rather have their kids know how to think through a problem, analyze various alternatives, not be pressured into action, work with others to find a “common-sense solution”? This is what President Obama and his people are doing. I can’t believe that the Republican irrational and juvenile way of doing things is actually not being ridiculed in the public domain – it’s no way for serious people to behave. We survived eight years of Bush, and his unthinking and non-reflective ways. And many in the media and in the country have not learned the lesson.

  11. 30 DoNoHarm
    March 25, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Meta: Thank you, that was very thoughtful of you to share this.

  12. 31 Nonie
    March 25, 2011 at 12:04 pm


    Long time lurker, first time blogger. I found this blog thru blackwaterdog. I love her to death cause she would always post videos, articles on another website before she started her own blog and when she left, I left with her and she has been my daily addiction. Looks like I found another pro-president obama blog because I love to read positive stuff on our president, so congrats on doing such a good job. Both you and BWD are god send. Keep up the good work. Love ya!!

    Wanted to post my first link of one of my favorite videos of President Obama.


    • 32 Theo67
      March 25, 2011 at 12:40 pm

      Nonie – I haven’t seen this before, and it just gave me chills! Good ones! Seeing the mannequin of President Obama, standing amongst all those other Presidents (and knowing he’s secured his place in history) and hearing him voice those awesome words – WOW! Thanks so much for sharing this. What a gem.

      • 33 Proud of Obama
        March 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm

        That was so awesome. It gave me chills, too. No matter what the evil and jealous naysayers do, they cannot erase history. President Barack Hussein Obama is already in the history books. Achieved what no other has. It cannot be taken away from him.

        Tomorrow I will attend my first OFA training session for the re-election campaign. I cannot wait to serve this President by doing what needs to be done for him to handily dispatch of who ever the republicans try to foist on the American people.

  13. 34 anameti
    March 25, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I totally disagree with those who think the president is indecisive and dithering. I am proud that we have a president who considers all options and consequences before making decisions; this shows intelligence not weakness.

  14. 35 Lovepolitics2008
    March 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Thank you Chipsticks for the article and the video. I had seen the video but watching this bit again was a delight. I don’t know why but I couldn’t help thinking of people like Anthony Weiner watching it. Compare both young men. Weiner looks like a college kid next to young senator Obama who already looks presidential.

    Last year I read a marvelous book: “Inside Obama’s Brain”, by Sasha Abramsky. This author totally GETS who President Obama is, how thoughtful, how exceptional. An interesting note is that he cites many instances where people who met him and had conversations with him a long time ago were CONVINCED he would be President some day. It was THAT obvious.

    • 36 HZ
      March 25, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      Hello LovePolitics 2008, and I want to thank you for mentioning the book, “Inside Obama’s Brain,” by Abramsky. This is a wonderful book, and I also concur with you that the people who contributed to this book had wonderful insights into how our Presidents thinks and they also saw that he one day could and would be the President . Yes, you stated it so beautifully, “It was THAT Obivious. Thank you for your comment, and I would just like to encourage others to read this book along with another GREAT READ which is “Reading Obama,” by James. Kloppenberg. Great book. I could not put the book down. Read it in two nights and it is a prize in my library until President Obama writes his books after he completes his second term. Can’t read to read those!! Thank you Love Politics 2008.

  15. March 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    No drama Obama. Love it.

    I would add that one sentence stands out about the base…

    “…During the spill, it was liberal cable pundits who wanted a president who could shout, emote and point fingers…”

    Since I have never been a Democrat and have faithfully contributed to and worked the grassroots for the opposition, I say this with all due deference looking in and as someone who supports this president, there is one thing which DEMS miss entirely: When the primaries are over the GOP circles the wagons. Call it goose stepping or conformity or whatever it is how elections are won.

    I gladly endorse this president if he decides to re-up in 2012. My words alone and surfing blogs are not enough. A commitment to also donate what I can to his campaign and to others campaigns for seats in the US congress and state legislatures and executive mansions who share his ideals. Words followed with deeds.

    If you have a family member or neighbor who is not politically active make them become involved.

    I submit that 2012 is the fight for not only our great nation but the survival of this planet.

    In conclusion those that say the president gave too much for example on health care (this law does not benefit me I am a DAV and receive free medical via US government nonetheless I worked for it to be passed) and that you were left with watered down legislation etc. I say to you in a democracy compromise is how things are achieved. Each large journey start with a single solo foot step.

    Social Security was enacted as a pension only for widows and orphans, it has evolved.

    Ciao form Europe.


    PS I have already started my fund-raising.

    PSS I love this blog.

  16. 38 HZ
    March 25, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Again, thanks so much for this site, Chipsticks. You and BWD are the best. I so much enjoy coming to this site and reading all of the information and comments. Thank you so very much!!!

  17. 39 Sonjia Duncan
    March 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I saw that MTP video at that time and when it was over I dropped to my knees and prayed that he would run.

  18. 40 anniebella
    March 25, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    We had eight years of a President not using his brain, but trying to act like John Wayne. In Iraq what did we get? And we are still in that other war ten years later. I’m well satisfied with President Obama.

  19. 42 MGarvey
    March 27, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I say let France and Britain do the rest of the work, this is at their doorstep, its about time for the U.S. to stop being the world police. However, with the UN resolution and support from NATO now, the President and his admin should be commended for their diplomacy in no doubt an unclear matter.

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