Because he’s not a strong leader:
The president is incapable of making a decision; on the rare occasion when he does, he is ignored, as in the Citi case. During a meeting in March 2009, an annoyed Obama left the room to get dinner and said he wanted a decision when he returned. Emanuel promptly took over, saying, “Everyone shut the f— up. Let me be clear—taking down the banking system in a program that could cost $700 billion is a fantasy.” Romer told Suskind that was the point where Emanuel violated his famous rule to never let a crisis go to waste—with Obama abdicating decision making, his chief of staff had decided on the status quo. “The bottom line is Tim and others at Treasury felt the president didn’t fully understand the complexities of the issue, or simply that they were right and he was wrong,” Alan Krueger (a former deputy Treasury secretary recently appointed to replace Romer as head of the CEA) tells Suskind.
It’s a recurring pattern throughout the book: Obama voices a preference, his advisers overrule him, and he never says boo about it. Elsewhere, he allowed himself to be dictated to. Peter Orszag recalls Summers telling Obama, “I’ll make my argument first; you can go after me.” Orszag was incredulous that the president allowed a subordinate to talk to him that way, and shocked that he didn’t say, “I made that decision a week ago. Just do what I say.” As Volcker put it, “Obama is smart, but smart is not enough. Leadership is another thing entirely, about knowing your mind enough to make real decisions, ones that last.”