As defining moments go, Barack Obama's most important as president has to be his decision to hand off to Congress the enormous task of cobbling together health-care reform legislation. This was an abrogation of leadership on his most important policy initiative that in hindsight seems dizzyingly shortsighted considering the fractious state of the Democratic caucuses, intransigence of the Republicans and enormous behind-the-scenes power that health insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit hospital chains wield.
Thanks to the Bush administration, there were more holes in the national dike than the young president had fingers, and I was inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on the muddled roll out of health-care reform and glacially slow pace -- chockablock with compromises and side deals -- with which the Democratic majorities in Senate and House addressed it.
At the end of the day, reform will pass with most of its limbs intact, possibly as early as this week. Obama's 11th hour decision to put the paddles to a patient that seemed about to draw its last breath showed leadership, but the preceding months when Obama seemed to repeatedly misread what Congress was doing and what a majority of Americans wanted did not.
Beyond health-care reform, my other hot button issue is shutting down the Bush Torture Regime apparatus, principally closing Guantánamo Bay and turning over the duties of military tribunals to the civilian courts where they belong.
While Obama did outlaw waterboarding and other torture techniques on his first day in office, here too he has made a hash of things. Guantánamo will remain open for the foreseeable future and now the White House is vacillating on whether 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed will indeed be tried in a civilian court.
Don't get me wrong. I continue to belief that Obama is the right man for the job and we're incredibly fortunate that it is he and not Hillary Clinton, John McCain or Sarah Palin who is running the show at this crucial juncture in American history. But while Obama is a quick learner, his leadership failures do not bode well for the remaining 32 months of that first term.