Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder offered harsh criticism on the Obama White House during the week of February 8, saying that if the president is to fulfill his dream of effecting change for America, he has to up the ante on his leadership skills—and fire some of his key players.
Wilder is a Democrat and the first African-American to be elected governor of a U.S. state. He also once aspired to lead the nation as a 1992 presidential hopeful.
But in comments posted this week in his column on Politico.com, Wilder claimed that Obama is “surrounded by people who are in their jobs because of their Chicago connections or because they signed on with Obama early during his presidential campaign, but lack sufficient experience at governing at the executive branch level.”
According to Michael Fauntroy, professor of public policy at George Mason University, Wilder’s observation may be astute. However, he said it has to be taken into consideration that Obama has only been at the helm one year.
But otherwise, “I think that Gov. Wilder is on to something,” said Fauntroy. ”I’ve always been concerned about some of the people that are surrounding the president and their individual influence, particularly with regard to the financial crisis.”
Fauntroy went on to say that, “Barack Obama has never had to lead anything—other than his duties as a member of the legislature—[and] it comes to me as no surprise that he’d be having problems in this regard. But overall I don’t think the problems are insurmountable.”
Wilder, known for his aggressive, maverick political style, wrote that Obama needs to replace “his admittedly brilliant advisors who helped get him elected with others more capable of helping him to govern.”
Wilder also said he believes voters have begun to question whether Obama has forgotten how he was elected, and the promises he made to the people who elected him.
“Don’t take my word for any of this,” Wilder wrote. “Look at the clear message the American people have been sending at the polls these past few months.”
Hilary Shelton, chief of advocacy for the Washington bureau of the NAACP, said Wilder is not the first to level such criticism at the president.
“There have been other complaints about some of the administration’s staff, but my experience has not been along those lines,” Shelton said. “I’ve talked to people closer to the top that are quite seasoned and have done an excellent job,” he continued. “They’ve all been top notch, very responsible and clearly very knowledgeable on the issues and challenges that we’re all trying to take on.”