Monday, May 31, 2010

He Was Supposed to Be Competent

It seems almost impossible, but Obama has actually demonstrated worse ability to handle a crisis than George Bush in the face of Katrina.  The present situation is simply horrible.

Yet why are we not sucking up oil out of the ocean with every tanker we can find?  At least tell us why not!  Why do we not have every piece of heavy equipment out in those wetlands building shallow causeways to compartmentalize the oil now.  Other temporary measures surely are known by guys on the ground.  Instead we have BP organizing fifty guys out in white hazmat gear armed with what might as well be butterfly nets.

He finally shows up for a series of photo ops and a weak attempt to lay the blame at George Bush’s door.  He now decides to slap of a moratorium on all offshore operations six weeks in.  The emergency called for just that to focus everyone from the beginning.

Our president is learning the needs and requirements of leadership on the job and his nature is to postpone and procrastinate.

Now much of this was apparent while he was campaigning and had he been slightly challenged, it is likely he would have folded and we would have either Hillary or McCain in charge.  Even then it was apparent that there was little evidence of leadership training in his background that would give one some comfort.

Recall that most of our presidents had management training and management roles that were demanding and that included Jimmy Carter.  Obama instead has the experience of an effective salesman politician and all that entails.  It was not necessarily one on one either.  There is a serious difference between the party pitchman and the floor closer.

The man was kept in a cocoon and the press cooperated with the deception.  Instead of hard reality, the voter was invited to envisage their own hopes and aspirations.

More troubling he has shown ample evidence of still believing a lot of the naïve socialism of the far left that has bedeviled politics for the past century.  Usually mature leaders understand this and keep clear of such dogma.  The far right has its own tiresome version.  Neither work at all but allow for handy slogans.

When the criticism is leveled of a lack of real life experience, it usually refers to this type of intellectual filter.  The evidence as it exists suggests that he never got it.  Now we see the result.

He Was Supposed to Be Competent

The spill is a disaster for the president and his political philosophy.


I don't see how the president's position and popularity can survive the oil spill. This is his third political disaster in his first 18 months in office. And they were all, as they say, unforced errors, meaning they were shaped by the president's political judgment and instincts.

There was the tearing and unnecessary war over his health-care proposal and its cost. There was his day-to-day indifference to the views and hopes of the majority of voters regarding illegal immigration. And now the past almost 40 days of dodging and dithering in the face of an environmental calamity. I don't see how you politically survive this.

The president, in my view, continues to govern in a way that suggests he is chronically detached from the central and immediate concerns of his countrymen. This is a terrible thing to see in a political figure, and a startling thing in one who won so handily and shrewdly in 2008. But he has not, almost from the day he was inaugurated, been in sync with the center. The heart of the country is thinking each day about A, B and C, and he is thinking about X, Y and Z. They're in one reality, he's in another.

The American people have spent at least two years worrying that high government spending would, in the end, undo the republic. They saw the dollars gushing night and day, and worried that while everything looked the same on the surface, our position was eroding. They have worried about a border that is in some places functionally and of course illegally open, that it too is gushing night and day with problems that states, cities and towns there cannot solve.

And now we have a videotape metaphor for all the public's fears: that clip we see every day, on every news show, of the well gushing black oil into the Gulf of Mexico and toward our shore. You actually don't get deadlier as a metaphor for the moment than that, the monster that lives deep beneath the sea.

In his news conference Thursday, President Obama made his position no better. He attempted to act out passionate engagement through the use of heightened language—"catastrophe," etc.—but repeatedly took refuge in factual minutiae. His staff probably thought this demonstrated his command of even the most obscure facts. Instead it made him seem like someone who won't see the big picture. The unspoken mantra in his head must have been, "I will not be defensive, I will not give them a resentful soundbite." But his strategic problem was that he'd already lost the battle. If the well was plugged tomorrow, the damage will already have been done.

The original sin in my view is that as soon as the oil rig accident happened the president tried to maintain distance between the gusher and his presidency. He wanted people to associate the disaster with BP and not him. When your most creative thoughts in the middle of a disaster revolve around protecting your position, you are summoning trouble. When you try to dodge ownership of a problem, when you try to hide from responsibility, life will give you ownership and responsibility the hard way. In any case, the strategy was always a little mad. Americans would never think an international petroleum company based in London would worry as much about American shores and wildlife as, say, Americans would. They were never going to blame only BP, or trust it.

I wonder if the president knows what a disaster this is not only for him but for his political assumptions. His philosophy is that it is appropriate for the federal government to occupy a more burly, significant and powerful place in America—confronting its problems of need, injustice, inequality. But in a way, and inevitably, this is always boiled down to a promise: "Trust us here in Washington, we will prove worthy of your trust." Then the oil spill came and government could not do the job, could not meet the need, in fact seemed faraway and incapable: "We pay so much for the government and it can't cap an undersea oil well!"

This is what happened with Katrina, and Katrina did at least two big things politically. The first was draw together everything people didn't like about the Bush administration, everything it didn't like about two wars and high spending and illegal immigration, and brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bushism. The second was illustrate that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. Conservatives got this point—they know it without being told—but liberals and progressives did not. They thought Katrina was the result only of George W. Bush's incompetence and conservatives' failure to "believe in government." But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent.

Remarkable too is the way both BP and the government, 40 days in, continue to act shocked, shocked that an accident like this could have happened. If you're drilling for oil in the deep sea, of course something terrible can happen, so you have a plan on what to do when it does.

How could there not have been a plan? How could it all be so ad hoc, so inadequate, so embarrassing? We're plugging it now with tires, mud and golf balls?

What continues to fascinate me is Mr. Obama's standing with Democrats. They don't love him. Half the party voted for Hillary Clinton, and her people have never fully reconciled themselves to him. But he is what they have. They are invested in him. In time—after the 2010 elections go badly—they are going to start to peel off. The political operative James Carville, the most vocal and influential of the president's Gulf critics, signaled to Democrats this week that they can start to peel off. He did it through the passion of his denunciations.

The disaster in the Gulf may well spell the political end of the president and his administration, and that is no cause for joy. It's not good to have a president in this position—weakened, polarizing and lacking broad public support—less than halfway through his term. That it is his fault is no comfort. It is not good for the stability of the world, or its safety, that the leader of "the indispensable nation" be so weakened. I never until the past 10 years understood the almost moral imperative that an American president maintain a high standing in the eyes of his countrymen.

Mr. Obama himself, when running for president, made much of Bush administration distraction and detachment during Katrina. Now the Republican Party will, understandably, go to town on Mr. Obama's having gone before this week only once to the gulf, and the fund-raiser in San Francisco that seemed to take precedence, and the EPA chief who decided to cancel a New York fund-raiser only after the press reported that she planned to attend.

But Republicans should beware, and even mute their mischief. We're in the middle of an actual disaster. When they win back the presidency, they'll probably get the big California earthquake. And they'll probably blow it. Because, ironically enough, of a hard core of truth within their own philosophy: When you ask a government far away in Washington to handle everything, it will handle nothing well.

Biden’s Prediction: Obama Failed the 'Test'
Thursday, 27 May 2010

By: Christopher Ruddy

In the opening days of the Obama administration, there was this idea floating around that Obama was the new FDR.

A new president arrives with a “New Deal” in the midst of a great economic crisis. He later leads the nation in a great war against fascism.

As we see the Obama administration unraveling before our eyes, we know one thing for sure: Obama isn’t an FDR. And he isn’t a JFK or even a Reagan, after whom he said he would model his “transformative” change presidency.

He may, sadly, turn out to be worse than Jimmy Carter. It is sad because, when the American people need a president to assert strong, positive leadership at home and abroad, Obama is failing us. 

On Thursday, the president held his first press conference in over 300 days — nearly 10 months since his last one. FDR would be turning over in his grave. FDR regaled in his informal fireside chats, not to mention his frequent press bull sessions — right in the Oval Office.

At his rare press conference, President Obama informed us, 36 days since the BP spill began, that he is in charge, that he has been in charge since the spill began, and that he takes full responsibility for what has happened.

Isn’t it a tad bit late to do this?

A new Zogby poll released Thursday shows that just 16 percent of the country believes that the federal government has handled the spill crisis well

At the press conference, Obama appeared somewhat apologetic for the problems so far.

Some already have begun applauding him for his acknowledgements of his mistakes since the BP disaster began.

“In case you were wondering who's responsible, I take responsibility," Obama said. "It is my job to make sure that everything is done to shut this down."

Watching it brought to mind President Kennedy’s public mea culpa over the Bay of the Pigs fiasco.

But there is a big difference between JFK's handling of that matter and Obama’s apology.

After the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy immediately took responsibility. He didn’t wait for more than a month while aides and press operatives tried to spin the blame.

And unlike Obama’s crisis, Kennedy inherited the Bay of Pigs operation, whose planning was largely completed before he became president.

The BP crisis is wholly owned and operated by Barack Obama.

And his handling of the disaster, even just the public relations stemming from it, has been woeful.

What we are witnessing is harsh reality bumping up against President Obama’s façade and shattering the glass — a glass image created by oratory, image and an adoring press. 

The BP matter is emblematic of a much broader leadership problem the president has.

We see this problem surfacing in the brewing Sestak matter

Joe Sestak alleged last summer that the White House offered him a job if he would not run for Senate.

For almost a year, the White House has refused to explain this serious allegation. 

The best Obama could tell the press Thursday was this: "There will be an official response shortly on the Sestak issue, which I hope will answer your questions," Obama said, adding: "You will get it from my administration. 

"So — and it will be coming out, when I say shortly, I mean shortly. I don't mean weeks or months. I can assure the public that nothing improper took place. But as I said, there will be a response shortly on that issue." 


All of this should not come as a real surprise.

Before Obama became president, his running mate, Joe Biden, warned that the new president would be tested.

Here’s what Biden said: “Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here, if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."

Biden was wrong on the timing, but prophetic on the point. 

Our president has been tested by al-Qaida, which apparently has tried to pull off two major terror attacks in the past year alone, first with the Detroit plane incident and recently in Times Square.

Both failed only because of the incompetence of the terrorists. And in both cases, the president reacted weakly, treating these incidents as legal matters and the terrorists as just criminals deserving of legal rights.

Obama also was tested after the Fort Hood incident, again treating this case as a criminal matter. His chief law enforcement officer, Attorney General Eric Holder, won’t even say that these terrorist incidents could be linked to “radical Islam.”

Since Obama has taken office, he has been tested consistently by the Iranian regime, which flouted free elections to keep its radical president in power. Once again, Obama was timid and delayed in his response to this outrage. 

And his administration has looked silly as Iran has refused continually to comply with international demands that it stop its nuclear weapons program.
Obama has failed another test, this time from Iran’s rogue ally North Korea.

Since North Korea’s brazen act of war with its torpedo attack on a South Korean vessel, President Obama has appeared feeble.

This is no time for such weakness coming from the leader of the free world. 

My God, Joe Biden was right. We elected a 47-year-old senator who has no real-world experience, and he is being tested by our enemies. They are seeing his true mettle.

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