Fortune's Painfully Dumb Defense of Snubbing Obama for Greatest Leaders List

Fortune magazine, facing backlash for their decision to exclude President Obama from their "World's Greatest Leaders" list, has released a half-assed, mind-blowingly ridiculous defense of their decision. The piece, penned by Alan Murray - who suspiciously claims to be a disillusioned 2008 Obama voter (I suppose much like grifter organization spokespeople who claim to be a "supporter" of the President minutes after accusing him of wanting to kill AIDS patients) - rehashes tired talking points faulting Obama that Washington isn't holding hands and singing kumbaya, and then goes on a complete unicorn land re-imagination of one of the president's most stunning foreign policy successes as one of his most damning failures.

But let's start, this time, at the end. Desperate to deflect criticism away from his publication, Murray sets up a strawman of what he thinks the Preisdent's supporters would say, ascribing to said strawman a hopelessness most uncharacteristic of Barack Obama.

Defenders of the President will argue that he had no choice. Rising partisanship, increased public cynicism, and an unrelenting 24-hour, social-media-driven news cycle have made leadership at home all but impossible. And a multipolar world without effective multilateral institutions makes leadership abroad equally problematic.

Of course, Murray cites exactly zero defenders of the President who have made this argument. There is no doubt that the Republicans' knuckle-dragging obstructionism and the media's (Fortune's included) propensity towards drumb sensationalism over real facts continue to hurt our country, but when it comes to the question of leadership, these factors working against the president have only helped to highlight the bold, effective and historic nature of President Obama's ability to lead at a time and circumstance in which any ordinary president would crumble.

Despite the political opposition and media frenzy coming from both the Right and the Left's ideologue corners, and despite the racist nature of much of the president's personal criticism (again, on both extremes of the ideological spectrum), the President guided health care reform - for the fist time in US history establishing a public responsibility for the health care of every American - through Congress. The President did so despite some of his advisers believing it would be too hard. The President recognized the moment to get help to millions of Americans, and at great risk to his own political future and at the cost of his party's control of the House, he got it done. That's leadership we have not seen since at least the passage of Medicare, and perhaps since the passage of Social Security, and both of those presidents had much larger majorities in Congress.

Faced against suddenly-discovered Republican opposition to "bailouts" as well as liberal freakout that he wasn't pushing for enough spending to fix the economic disaster his predecessor left him, the President guided the country through the worst economic storm of most of our lifetimes, extending both help and accountability to the financial sector, re-energizing a moribund US auto industry and revitalizing American manufacturing, and relentlessly ensuring that unemployment benefits don't expire at the time of the greatest need.

No one can honestly evaluate the economic strides this country - the most robust of any developed economy recovering from the global financial crisis of the Bush era and not the least of which is the longest stretch of private sector job creation in US history - made since that dreaded freefall at the time this President came to office and say that it shouldn't put President Obama in list of top 50 leaders of all time, let alone an annual list of a rich people magazine.

Despite rampant racism, the knee-jerk political opposition and the media's obsession with made-up nontroversies, the President didn't stop at health care reform. He passed the most significant Wall Street Reform since FDR, creating the nation's first independent federal agency dedicated to protecting consumers of financial products, along with credit card reform and student loan reform (as part of the ACA reconciliation package). He led to ensure full repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, allowing brave gay and lesbian Americans to serve with dignity. Soon after, he became the first President in US history to declare full support for marriage equality while in office. He ended two wars.

He ended two wars. That's important in and of itself, but it is also important in considering the caliber of his leadership on the economy. People are quick to say that although the Great Recession was frightening and disastrous, President Franklin Roosevent pulled America out of the Great Depression, and it was "obviously" a greater achievement. One forgets, however, that not only did FDR have much larger Democratic majorities to pass his priorities, his recovery took place, at least partly from a wartime economy whereas Barack Obama has led his historic recovery while winding down the machinery of war. That too is a stunning and historic leadership achievement.

Not only is Barack Obama's list of legislative achievements impressive, his leadership in implementing these legislative triumphs has made him a historic example in competent government. The President's health care law is now responsible for 16.4 million additional Americans having health insurance, and his and the Fed's relentless enforcement of accountability to the banks under financial reform has resulted in all systematically important financial institutions passing the test of whether they can weather another storm on the scale of that of the Great Recession without taxpayer help.

Documenting all of the President's leadership achievements, though, would take a few volumes of books, so let's get back to the stupidity of Fortune's defensive posture about their decision to leave out this once-in-a-lifetime leader out of the list of global luminaries that includes such esteemed leaders as popstar Taylor Swift and retired pro-basketball legend Yao Ming.

After the aforementioned whambulence chasing about the lack of political happy dance being the black guy's fault, Murray arrives at the most preposterous part of his defunct defense of the snub. Barack Obama's dealings in Syria, Murray says with incontrovertible evidence from wonder-world, was a disastrous waffle-bot that "emboldened" Putin.

Many wise foreign-policy analysts believe the President’s public waffling on Syria not only fed the terrorism of the Islamic State, but also emboldened thugs around the world—notably Vladimir Putin.

Even aside from neglecting to print the word "ass" after "wise" in the above-quoted paragraph, Murray's argument essentially is this: the President "waffled" on Syria by forcing it to give up all of its chemical weapons in the middle of a civil war without firing a single shot, and he "emboldened" Putin by getting everything he wanted with respect to said disarmament.

As for the claimed non-political nature of Fortune's list, The New York Daily News pokes that hot air balloon with a sharp stick.

But while Murray faulted Obama for not playing nice with Republicans who made it clear from the start they wanted him to fail, he had no qualms about placing Purdue University President and GOP darling Mitch Daniels on the list at No. 41.

Fortune hailed Daniels for taking a “green-eyeshade approach” to balancing the university’s book.

But left out of the glowing bio was this inconvenient truth — Daniels, as budget director for Obama’s predecessor George W. Bush, helped turn a $236 billion surplus into a $400 billion deficit and saddled the country with $5 trillion in new debt.

As Rick Perry would say, oops.

But President Obama's most lasting impact in leadership may rest not simply in the transformation he has spearheaded for our country but in the hopes he has inspired in not just Americans but in the world: that no matter the odds, human endeavor is capable of eroding the toughest of barriers.

I rather like Taylor Swift, actually. But no publication that isn't looking to purposely and politically snub the President would neglect to include our time's embodiment of leadership on a top 50 "leaders" list. Barack Obama isn't merely a contemporary champion in heavyweight leadership, he is one of history's all-time giants.



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