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Atlantic Eye: Lollygagging along

By MARC S. ELLENBOGEN, UPI International Columnist

VIENNA, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Frankly, Mr. President, I have had enough of your blathering.

And I was not even remotely a supporter of the Bush administration. But, you talk, and talk, and talk, and -- well you get the point. You have little to show in your first year. And you have let the American people down.

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I endorsed you in February 2008, when most of the Democratic establishment was standing behind Sen. Hillary Clinton. I spoke of your courage, your motivational skills and your fresh approach. I said you would take us in a new direction.

But every commander in the field knows that after the "attaboy-attagirl" speech, one must lead soldiers into battle. The greatest motivational speech does not secure the terrain or defeat the enemy. For that, Mr. President, you need a strategy. And I have looked high and low, far and wide, but there is a definite absence of any cohesive thread in your administration.

In your desperation to show you have done something, you had Congress push through a watered-down stepchild of your original healthcare plan. You sold the U.S. people healthcare; what you have delivered is some sort of contrivance. Normally, if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck -- it is a duck.

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Well, Mr. President, your healthcare plan ain't no duck!

And your neophyte advisers are fools to believe the American people will buy into the charade you have delivered. Even worse, you are hocking the future of our children by pushing through a sham that begins in debt and will take 20 years to be solvent -- if it ever does become so.

I worked with, and hosted, Gov. Howard Dean when he was chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Howard is a fiscal conservative. Always has been. His public image never did him justice. But Dean also believes in universal healthcare -- something he delivered in Vermont without debt.

Your first mistake was not to make Dean secretary of health and human services -- you would not be in this muddle if you had. Your second was to put the United States further into debt with a health plan that is doomed to fail before it even gets out of the stable. Meanwhile, you continue to waste $50,000 per minute in Iraq. I am for more troops, but our resources are being ineffectually used. Dean, a great chairman of the Democratic Party who you tried to marginalize -- even during the campaign -- has rightfully criticized this thing you call a healthcare plan and other aspects of your absence of leadership.

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From Ruanda to Somalia; from Israel to the Palestinian territories; from Central Europe to the Caucasus; from North Korea to missile defense, you, Mr. President, are dropping the ball like some freshman hoop star recruited with great expectation but who is choking at all the big moments. It is time you realize a great speech does not solve the problem.

And, Mr. President, you have filled only 50 percent of the vacant positions in your administration. And you let your head of White House personnel appoint himself ambassador to Canada while your deputy personnel head appointed himself to the same post in South Africa. And so the appointment process falls even farther behind. By the time you have all the appointments in place, you will be officially running for re-election.

And then there is the Northwest Airlines terrorist near-bombing incident.

Did you not, Mr. President, appoint all the men and women running our security and intelligence agencies? Why have they failed you and our nation? Could it be that you have actually failed them by not showing leadership, by not staying on the ball? I find it a bit convenient that you attack the people in the chain of command without taking responsibility yourself. It wasn't just the government that failed the American people; you have failed us most of all.

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From the very beginning, Mr. President, our nation's safety should have been your top priority. Instead, you have allowed yourself to be distracted by domestic issues -- most of which you have addressed with ineffectual public policy prescriptions.

Even the "bailout" is mostly serving those who got our economy into this mess and not the folks and enterprises that need financial support the most. You are rewarding the perpetrators, not those affected. Banks are not creating capital, nor are they providing loans to individuals and small- and medium-sized enterprises. Ah, big heavy payouts to themselves are the vogue. Bravo. And even there you condemn what you created and supported.

When I endorsed you, Mr. President, I expected you to pick the right people for the right positions. You mostly have not.

You have marginalized the people who would tell you what you need to know, because you evidently prefer to be surrounded by young boobs who tell you what you want to hear.

From the young and inexperienced know-it-alls in the White House to many of the secretaries you have appointed, they have mostly missed the mark and are in over their heads.

And, Mr. President -- at this point -- it appears you are as well.

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(UPI International Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Berlin, Copenhagen and Sydney-based Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society. He has advised political candidates and is a founding trustee of the Democratic Expat Leadership Council.)

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(e-mail: ellenbogen@globalpanel.org)

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