Earlier this week I, along with tens of millions of people, expectantly watched as two underdogs took to the stage to unveil their plans for 2010 — President Obama and Steve Jobs.
"Underdogs?" you ask incredulously? The most powerful leader in the free world and one of the richest and most innovative technology CEO's on the planet?
Yes I say "underdogs" because both have had to contend with the toughest of all opponents — HYPE, and the treacherously overinflated expectations that come with it.
Even normally cutthroat Republican analysts expressed sympathy for President Obama as he took the oath because they knew in a certain way it would all be downhill for him. With unprecedented popularity numbers and an all-you-can eat buffet of fiscal and political booby traps to deal with, there was next to zero chance Obama's popularity would go anywhere but down.
And that is exactly what happened. Tumbling from a record high of 84 percent at inauguration to a more sobering 46 percent last month compounded by a shocking win for the Republicans in Massachusetts (replacing Ted Kennedy of all people!) a humbled Obama has had to seriously rethink his approach.
I think he got in some good punches. The gut-wrenching truth is that China is WHIPPING our butts in terms of new job creation in the clean energy sector (where most of the global job growth is) outspending us by a ratio of about 1:7, China spending $440+ billion over our $69 billion.
And while our senators are waging playground wars with each other, vying for that next big corporate campaign contribution that will ensure re-election, a much greater war is being fought (and won) in China. The fact is Obama was being far too generous when he said he wouldn't stand for an America that is #2. #14 is more like it.
So he made an effective plea, but part of the problem is that damn Nobel Prize. I have this conspiracy theory that Karl Rove paid off the Nobel Institute to ensure that Obama would never be able to follow his own act. I mean winning the Peace Prize in your first term?? Come on. Even if Obama had levitated on stage he would have barely been able to one-up his own brand.
The iPad shared a similar brand challenge during its unveiling yesterday in San Francisco. After the millions of hypothetical and near-mystical musings about the Apple tablet — haptic multi-touch screens, articulating keyboards, holographic projector, and on and on — the fact that Jobs unveiled the most game-changing personal electronics device in history was sort of lost in the anti-climactic revelation that the iPad doesn't really do that much more than the iPhone. The device was maybe a bit too thin.
The biggest missed opportunity in both cases, I think, was not throwing down the clean energy gauntlet.
Both Obama and Jobs gave a brief and delicious sprinkling of "green" and "clean" in their presentations but not enough to really make an impact. Something tells me that if either had made a truly strong stance on energy — the importance of saving it and the importance of making more American jobs (ahem, Steve?) their talks would have made a bigger impression on the media and the Recession-assaulted American public.
Americans need a BIG vision. And neither Obama nor Jobs offered anything more than a nicer, better version of the "same old."
After all my blogging about Apple's solar patents — like PV laminate glass — I was a little disappointed that the iPad didn't incorporate a single solar feature. Sure, it has a 10-hour battery. That's great, but why not have it generate its own energy? It's not like we don't have the technology. I think such a feature would have imbued the iPad with an aura of historical importance — the first tablet to make its own energy.
Similarly, Obama missed yet another opportunity to really catapult the renewable agenda onto the national stage. Imagine if he had unveiled a breathtaking plan to create a million news jobs by building the solar super highway, toppling the Chinese off their energy superpower throne in one fell swoop? Energy independence, jobs, and a major statement that the U.S. is playing to win: this is something that would have inspired Americans to sit up on their sofas and take note.
Guys, you have nearly endless financial resources, and the power to harness an unlimited energy resource is in your hands! Why not grab it?
Jan. 27, 2010, should have been the day that two Sun Kings were born. Instead we saw two great, yet somewhat tired, leaders who unfortunately did not make history this time around.
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