The “teenage” administration
When Barack Obama was running for the presidency, there were a number of people who warned he wasn’t ready for prime time – that he’d never really “done anything or run anything”. That he had never demonstrated any penchant for leadership at any time in his life, nor had he ever had any executive experience. That most of his adult life had been political campaigns for the next highest office – moving directly from one to the next with few if any accomplishments in-between.
Those people were shouted down by their “betters” claiming Mr. Obama was hip, wicked smart, charming, “with it”, confident and a master of social media. He would change the dynamic in Washington, charm the world into doing his bidding and calm the rising seas etc., etc., etc.
Eliot Cohen, in a Wall Street Journal op/ed, says instead, we’ve got a bunch of people in the administration that basically and unsurprisingly act like teenagers:
Often, members of the Obama administration speak and, worse, think and act, like a bunch of teenagers. When officials roll their eyes at Vladimir Putin‘s seizure of Crimea with the line that this is “19th-century behavior,” the tone is not that different from a disdainful remark about a hairstyle being “so 1980s.” When administration members find themselves judged not on utopian aspirations or the purity of their motives—from offering “hope and change” to stopping global warming—but on their actual accomplishments, they turn sulky. As teenagers will, they throw a few taunts (the president last month said the GOP was offering economic policies that amount to a “stinkburger” or a “meanwich”) and stomp off, refusing to exchange a civil word with those of opposing views.
In a searing memoir published in January, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates describes with disdain the trash talk about the Bush administration that characterized meetings in the Obama White House. Like self-obsessed teenagers, the staffers and their superiors seemed to forget that there were other people in the room who might take offense, or merely see the world differently. Teenagers expect to be judged by intentions and promise instead of by accomplishment, and their style can be encouraged by irresponsible adults (see: the Nobel Prize committee) who give awards for perkiness and promise rather than achievement.
If the United States today looks weak, hesitant and in retreat, it is in part because its leaders and their staff do not carry themselves like adults. They may be charming, bright and attractive; they may have the best of intentions; but they do not look serious. They act as though Twitter and clenched teeth or a pout could stop invasions or rescue kidnapped children in Nigeria. They do not sound as if, when saying that some outrage is “unacceptable” or that a dictator “must go,” that they represent a government capable of doing something substantial—and, if necessary, violent—if its expectations are not met. And when reality, as it so often does, gets in the way—when, for example, the Syrian regime begins dousing its opponents with chlorine gas, as it has in recent weeks, despite solemn deals and red lines—the administration ignores it, hoping, as teenagers often do, that if they do not acknowledge a screw-up no one else will notice.
It is a pretty fair and devastating summary of an immature, selfie-taking, hashtag loving administration. Intentions speak louder than action in their world. They don’t take criticism well. And they are about as petty as it comes when talking about their opposition. They demand respect for the man in office, but the man in office shows no respect to those whose views differ from him.
He is also given very little if any respect in the world because he’s really done nothing to earn it (and quite a bit to unearn any he had when he took office). Hostile nations, knowing how thin skinned this administration is, openly taunt the President and his policies. They fear no reprisal from the US. Iran recently declared victory over the US in Syria. Russia – well Russia has simply decided the US isn’t a real threat as it plays out its expansionist intentions. Even our allies have openly criticized the administration for their inept handling of foreign policy.
We live in a very dangerous world, one in which the predators are always looking for an opening (usually in the form of a power vacuum) of which they can take advantage. This administration has provided no leadership whatsoever during its tenure and that power vacuum has developed during our unilateral withdrawal from our previously prominent position in the world. And just like a bunch of teenagers, this administration is sure that it is the fault of everyone but themselves.
After all, their intentions were pure … or something.