Franklin Roosevelt assured the country there was nothing to fear but fear itself. Ronald Reagan urged us to stay the course. Bill Clinton found hope in pop culture and Fleetwood Mac, serving up inspiration with a song: “Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow …”

Who’s inspiring us now? Where’s the leader who calms and encourages a frightened and weary people to be confident and hopeful?

Barack Obama? The brilliant orator of the 2008 presidential campaign whose speeches caused liberal commentators’ spines to tingle with excitement? What words of inspiration does the president offer the country as Americans wrestle with a stalled economy and stubborn unemployment?

When President Obama proposed his jobs program, he told Congress that the nation’s problems couldn’t wait for the 2012 elections, that the American people needed help and needed it now. Since then, we have learned that the Democratic president’s idea of solving problems was to buy a bus and travel around the country berating Republicans for not solving problems.

It turns out that he’s the one who can’t wait for the election. Obama is clearly much more adept at running for president than at being president.

But the Republicans are no better. In Congress, the Grand Old Party evidently believes the only thing there is fear is saying yes to a piece of legislation that might benefit the economy or the people suffering from its stagnancy. Their definition of staying the course is doing nothing and waiting for problems to solve themselves.

Never mind the search for inspirational leadership. The country would be grateful for any leadership at all.

This lack of leadership is the backdrop for last week’s news that the economy showed modest — and modest is a generous term — growth from July through September. The 2.5 percent growth rate was the economy’s best performance in a year, The Associated Press reported, but it came with “the weakest consumer confidence since the height of the Great Recession.”

“The Great Recession.” Seems like a historical reference of some kind, doesn’t it? But it isn’t history, at least not yet. We’re still suffering its effects, and hardly a day goes by without some economic pundit predicting another recessionary siege — a dreaded “double dip” recession.

It’s almost enough to make us fear more than fear itself, to doubt our ability to stay the course, to stop thinking about tomorrow. Almost, but not quite.

America remains the greatest nation on earth and Americans remain the most determined and resilient people on the planet. We will survive and we will thrive, without or without a leader to inspire us.

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