Friday, October 9, 2009

Has the "Obama Bubble" Reached its Peak?

Having endured dot-com mania and the housing/credit crisis, we’re all starting to get pretty good at recognizing the signs of a bubble: lots of hype, no sense of proportion, free-flowing accolades and unearned reverence, irrational behavior, and endless exhibitions of wretched excess. Certainly, some of these bubblelicious signs apply to our president.

I really don’t think President Obama has anguished over how to inflate his image and get himself placed on a pedestal, but that’s precisely where many people, especially those overseas, have placed him. His charisma and promise of hope have bought him a very low bar. I'm sure, upon honest reflection, most people would admit that there has been little objective evaluation of his work thus far. However, we reached a tipping point today. The gap between his image and his qualifications and actual results became too wide and clear to be denied. With his premature “winning” (as if he actually wanted it) of the Nobel Peace Prize today, I think the pitfalls of this leader-as-pop-icon situation that the public has created have finally hit home, even with many of his most devoted supporters. Especially coming on the heels of the IOC "malfunction" in Copenhagen, one can’t help but wonder if today may have been the top for Obama – just like NASDAQ at 5132.52 on March 10th, 2000 – and that it may be all downhill from here. Of course, the Right expressed plenty of outrage today about the win being undeserved. However, I think this eerie feeling that the Obama bubble has been pricked is what’s giving so many others more of a feeling of loss today, rather than outrage. Truly, it’s sad when bubbles finally burst.

I think the obvious-to-all absurdity of today’s award was a wake-up call. It reminds us that we need to be realistic in our expectations and rigorous in our evaluations. Moreover, it reminds us that people in lofty places (e.g., the Nobel judges) can make foolish decisions or ones that are motivated to serve their own political aims, and that the rest of us need to stay awake at the switch in order to detect when they do. President Obama and the rest of our politicians are only human. They have strengths and weaknesses like the rest of us, and as our public servants, we should treat them with respect and realize that they’ll never do everything perfectly. Importantly, however, as we do with employees in the workplace, we must also diligently monitor and evaluate their work, and hold them accountable for their actions. Questioning is not a sign of being unsupportive. It’s helpful, as we learn from it, and it’s essential if we want to be our very best.

With the bloom off the rose a bit now, maybe we can take some of the emotion, dogma, and tribal warfare out of this presidency and get down to the objective administration of this great republic. Today may have actually been an important turning point for the better.