One of President Obama's political weaknesses in his first term has been that he's all-too-willing to avoid making tough decisions, hesitant to expend political capital for potential long-term gain. Throughout his first term in office, he's had a cautious governing style, and has avoided taking on some of his party's core constituencies...when it comes to political bravery, Obama isn't going to win any profiles in courage, either.He goes on to bash Obama for failing to support Simpson-Bowles, and for supposedly not making specific budget requests during the debt limit fight, and for a few other things, none of which read as anything like "avoiding making tough decisions" to me.
I think what it comes down to is that I don't understand the entire concept of "political bravery" as discussed by the press. I can imagine a few definitions. Bravery generally is about subjecting oneself to danger or risk, particularly in pursuit of some greater goal, right? But I'm not sure I get why, for example, specifying one's position publicly in a negotiation would fit. Kraushaar's criticism only makes sense if (1) Obama perceived it to be better negotiating strategy to make his position public; (2) believed that doing so would be painful or dangerous or risky in some way; and therefore (3) decided not to subject himself to the pain or danger or risk. Does that sound like what happened in any of the negotiations with Republicans so far?
The truth is that running for president takes physical courage, and whatever the kind of courage that's involved in knowingly subjecting yourself to having millions of people say nasty things about you. Matt Bai was actually getting to this today, and while I might quibble a bit with him (natch!) I think he's on the right track. But actually being president doesn't really, as far as I can tell, have a whole lot in common with with choice between meeting the bully on the playground or hiding out in the lunchroom. It's just not about that sort of thing.
Aw, might as well get to the main point that annoys me, which is the notion that courage is about "taking on..."the "party's core constituencies." I'm just baffled by the importance the press places on this, apparently just for it's own sake. It's just nonsense to think that it's often sensible for presidents to do it, and at any rate it has little to do with whatever political bravery is.
Look: George H.W. Bush was famously prudent, perhaps to a fault, and George W. Bush was reckless to a fault, but that doesn't have anything whatsoever to do with courage. I mean, I've seen Obama's choices on bin Laden described as courageous, but I don't really see that, either. They do their jobs, they make decisions (yes, Obama has made plenty, including very tough ones indeed in Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan), and generally they give it their best, which may or may not turn out well. But "political bravery"? In almost every case I recall reading about it, it was just junk to fill columns. I don't think there's much to it at all, and I certainly don't think that Kraushaar is telling us anything about Obama in this case.