I must confess that my initial infatuation with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Mount Olympus) is wearing off.

Yes, he’s got the charisma, the personal history, the zeitgeist on his side … but he hasn’t done anything, and shows no signs of planning to do anything, of any daring or significance. Someone in his position, with that much media attention, that much popular support, has a responsibility to use that power to make something happen — something other than political advancement. The jury’s still out, but the clock is ticking, to mix metaphors.

Obama’s on the cover of two national magazines this week: Time (along with an excerpt from his new book and a photo spread) and Harpers (not online). Though the pieces are written from decidedly different perspectives, they both tell the same basic story: look how amazing this guy is … just imagine when he does something!

Want to see something that captures my mixed feelings? Watch this video:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

(Side note: as Media Matters has chronicled, it wasn’t until the 11th broadcast of CBS’ "free speech" segment that an actual progressive or Democrat appeared on it. Thanks, liberal media.)

It’s fantastic that he’s pushing the energy issue in front of a huge mainstream audience, and he’s probably better in that role than someone more partisan. It’s nice that he ties together economic troubles, global warming, and Middle East wars. But after framing it as this massive, all-inclusive problem, he mentions two things:

  1. Ethanol.
  2. Bribing American automakers to make more fuel efficient cars by paying some of their retiree healthcare costs — i.e., his cockamamie "Health Care for Hybrids" plan.

That’s it? This short segment was probably the equivalent of tens of millions of dollars for the ethanol lobby. But I doubt it did much to advance Americans’ understanding of the scale or the possible responses to the energy problem.

Obama’s grace, eloquence, and intelligence are such that he could become a genuinely transformative figure in American politics. But potential and a buck will get you a cup of coffee. It’s time to see a little courage, no?

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.