Free Markets, Free People
Frank Rich is thrashing around for an answer – a way to explain Barack Obama’s presidency to this point. His latest excuse for the presidency’s inadequacies and incompetence is …. the Stockholm syndrome.
THOSE desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled “Understanding Stockholm Syndrome” in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin. It explains that hostage takers are most successful at winning a victim’s loyalty if they temper their brutality with a bogus show of kindness. Soon enough, the hostage will start concentrating on his captors’ “good side” and develop psychological characteristics to please them — “dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide or think.”
Where he ends up, of course, is trying to explain away Obama’s ‘baffling’ performance and apparently the best he could come up with this week is likening him to a hostage who ends up identifying with his captors. Here, at its tortured best, is Frank Rich trying to make that stretch:
No sooner did he invite the G.O.P.’s Congressional leaders to a post-election White House summit meeting than they countered his hospitality with a slap — postponing the date for two weeks because of “scheduling conflicts.” But they were kind enough to reschedule, and that was enough to get Obama to concentrate once more on his captors’ “good side.”
And so, as the big bipartisan event finally arrived last week, he handed them an unexpected gift, a freeze on federal salaries. Then he made a hostage video hailing the White House meeting as “a sincere effort on the part of everybody involved to actually commit to work together.” Hardly had this staged effusion of happy talk been disseminated than we learned of Mitch McConnell’s letter vowing to hold not just the president but the entire government hostage by blocking all legislation until the Bush-era tax cuts were extended for the top 2 percent of American households.
The captors will win this battle, if they haven’t already by the time you read this, because Obama has seemingly surrendered his once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think.
I saw the last sentence and I immediately wondered what “once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think” Rich was talking about? I’m sorry but I’m coming up empty in that department. Certainly nothing he did prior to the presidency identified any of those “abilities”. And few can argue – apparently Rich included – that he’s demonstrated them while the President. So I’d have to ask Mr. Rich – what “once-considerable abilities” are you talking about? Examples, please.
Here’s a thought – maybe, like many of us said, he’s never had those abilities. If Frank Rich, an long time Obama lap dog, can’t come up with a list of instances in which Obama has demonstrated those abilities, maybe they always were, well, myths. Those “abilities” were “hopes” that those who wanted to put a man in the White House about whom they knew virtually nothing “hoped” would be realized. I mean the guy can give a hell of a speech, can’t he?
In fact, Rich is finally led to the same conclusion:
The cliché criticisms of Obama are (from the left) that he is a naïve centrist, not the audacious liberal that Democrats thought they were getting, and (from the right) that he is a socialist out to impose government on every corner of American life. But the real problem is that he’s so indistinct no one across the entire political spectrum knows who he is. A chief executive who repeatedly presents himself as a conciliator, forever searching for the “good side” of all adversaries and convening summits, in the end comes across as weightless, if not AWOL. A Rorschach test may make for a fine presidential candidate — when everyone projects their hopes on the guy. But it doesn’t work in the Oval Office: These days everyone is projecting their fears on Obama instead.
There you go. A “sophisticated” member of the liberal elite (and he’s obviously not the only one) who revels in characterizing the opposition naïve and irresponsible is found to be among the naïve and irresponsible. In fact, what that group projected on the Obama the presidential candidate was insanely naïve and almost criminally irresponsible. And that led to the book on how to pick a president being thrown out the window and version 2.0 was written on the fly.
Result? Empty suit who looks good and can give a good speech. The perfect Hollywood president who has his scripts written for him and in the celluloid world, really doesn’t have to do anything or accomplish anything to be a star. To bad that doesn’t work in the real world, huh Frank?
Yes, version 2.0 said “we don’t need experience or leadership, that’s what advisors are for, all we need is someone who looks and acts like a president.” How’s that working out for you?
Of course Obama is as complicit in this as anyone in this. A junior senator for Illinois, where as a state senator he compiled a sparse record of accomplishment, Obama never even finished his first term in the Senate before seeking the presidency. And the Frank Rich’s of the world were giddy at the thought and lavish with their praise and support.
Well, v 2.0 has crashed. Big time. It’s a flop. And all the political code monkeys in the world can’t resurrect it. Because there was never enough substance or experience there to ever make it work in the first place. Obama is the WYSIWYG president and most folks taking a long hard look at him today aren’t seeing much they like or want to keep.
And it isn’t going to get any better. He wasn’t even able to control his own space when he had overwhelming majorities in Congress. Anyone who thinks he can do better with a Republican majority in the House and a much narrower majority in the Senate need to make an early appointment for psychiatric help.
Interestingly, Rich spends much of the column praising NJ Governor Chris Christie and his leadership style. There’s a pathetic longing evident in Rich’s writing. A longing for a Christie-type Democrat in the White House right about now. It is just as obvious he knows he’ll never see it, at least from the present occupant.
Hey, Frank baby – this one is yours. You and your liberal buddies chose him. You threw all the normal conventions used to pick an accomplished leader for president out the window because Obama, at least on the surface, was the PC liberal candidate from heaven. He gave you a chance to assuage your white guilt and show the world how much you and the rest of liberal America had grown up. Well, Mr. Rich, you got exactly what you deserve.
Live with it.
Unfortunately, thanks to you and your kind, we have to as well.
Maureen Dowd asks, “[h]ow did the first president of color become so colorless?” Or, where’s the Obama mojo that attracted so many independents and some Republicans – enough to see him convincingly elected to the presidency.
Answer – it takes theater to elect a president any more and they had good theater. It takes leadership to be a successful president and, at least to some of us, it was evident while reviewing the resume of then candidate Obama that he was way short in that department.
And now, as you might imagine, that’s showing up in spades. Dowd notes that independents are leaving Obama in droves and, using her sister as an example (“Peggy” who is supposedly a Republican who opposed the war in Iraq and therefore swung her support over to Obama) lays out the reasons. “Peggy” – as I read this – hit me more as an Olympia Snowe Republican than a conservative Republican:
Peggy thinks the president has done fine managing W.’s messes in Iraq and Afghanistan. And she lights up at the mention of his vice president, Joe Biden. But she thinks Obama has to get “a backbone” if he wants to lure her back to the fold. “He promised us everything, saying he would turn the country around, and he did nothing the first year,” Peggy says. “He piddled around when he had 60 votes. He could have pushed through the health care bill but spent months haggling on it because he wanted to bring some Republicans on board. He was trying too hard to compromise when he didn’t need the Republicans and they were never going to like him. Any idiot could see that.
“He could have gotten it through while Teddy Kennedy was still alive — he owed the Kennedys something — and then the bill was watered down.
My guess is that’s MoDo putting words in her sister’s mouth – if, in reality her sister really is a Republican. But I can’t imagine anyone of an even slightly conservative bent saying anything like "Peggy" did above.
However, MoDo goes on quoting Peggy’s thoughts and this seems much more likely of the person Dowd described:
“He hasn’t saved the economy, and now he’s admitting he’s made very little progress. You can’t for four years blame the person who used to be president. Obama tries to compromise too much, and he doesn’t look like a strong leader. I don’t watch him anymore. I’m turned off by him. I think he’s an elitist. He went down to the gulf, telling everyone to take a vacation down there, and then he goes to Martha’s Vineyard. He does what he wants but then he tells us to do other things.
“I want him in that White House acting like a president, not out on the campaign trail. Not when the country is going down the toilet.”
That sounds more like a independent or “moderate Republican” disillusioned by what all of us have seen and noted. A total lack of awareness about how leadership works. No understanding of how a leader should set the example and what leadership requires of a leader. Totally tone deaf. Obama’s fallback for his lack of leadership skills and complaints about that is to hit the campaign trail again. It is campaigning he feels comfortable doing and speeches are his preferred form of leadership – because campaigning requires lots of wonderfully crafted words but very little actual doing.
Obama’s coming problem in 2012 is he’ll have an actual record to examine– something he hasn’t really had before – and trust me, we all know it is going to be minutely examined. Those like “Peggy” have pretty much realized how poor that record really is and are already looking for other candidates (“Peggy” supposedly is interested in voting for Mitt Romney if he runs but thinks anyone would be “nuts” to vote for Sarah Palin – I assume that’s now an obligatory part of most lefty’ pundits columns – the gratuitous shot at Palin).
Frank Rich – another dependable administration media lap dog – is all excited about some “forceful speeches” Obama has given. Speaking of dogs, he’s very happy with how the president supposedly struck back at his critics saying they spoke about him “like a dog”. Wow – there’s the Obama of old.
But, even Rich knows he’s pushing a false line wrapped in a false hope:
For Obama to make Americans believe he does understand their problems and close the enthusiasm gap, he cannot merely make changes of campaign style. Sporadic photo ops in shirtsleeves or factory settings persuade no one; a few terrific speeches can’t always ride to the rescue.
In fact, that’s precisely the answer Obama always gives when confronted with a problem. Hey, I”ll go out and work the crowd and talk about it. It worked getting me elected, perhaps it will work now.
Uh, no – the campaign is over. Some one needs to tell the president and his staff that’s the case. Like “Peggy” said, she “wants him in the White House acting like a president”.
Faint hope of that ever happening.
Rich gives Obama this advice:
As many have noted, the obvious political model for Obama this year is Franklin Roosevelt, who at his legendary 1936 Madison Square Garden rally declared that he welcomed the “hatred” of his enemies in the realms of “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.” As the historian David Kennedy writes in his definitive book on the period, “Freedom from Fear,” Roosevelt “had little to lose by alienating the right,” including those in the corporate elite, with such invective; they already detested him as vehemently as the Business Roundtable crowd does Obama.
Though F.D.R. was predictably accused of “class warfare,” his antibusiness “radicalism,” was, in Kennedy’s words, “a carefully staged political performance, an attack not on the capitalist system itself but on a few high-profile capitalists.” Roosevelt was trying to co-opt the populist rage of his economically despondent era, some of it uncannily Tea Party-esque in its hysteria, before it threatened that system, let alone his presidency. Only the crazy right confused F.D.R. with communists for taking on capitalism’s greediest players, and since our crazy right has portrayed Obama as a communist, socialist and Nazi for months, he’s already paid that political price without gaining any of the benefits of bringing on this fight in earnest.
F.D.R. presided over a landslide in 1936. The best the Democrats can hope for in 2010 is smaller-than-expected losses. To achieve even that, Obama will have to give an F.D.R.-size performance — which he can do credibly and forcibly only if he really means it. So far, his administration’s seeming coziness with some of the same powerful interests now vilifying him has left middle-class voters, including Democrats suffering that enthusiasm gap, confused as to which side he is on. If ever there was a time for him to clear up the ambiguity, this is it.
Short version: hate is fine if you hate the right people – play that class warfare game, do some engaging but “F.D.R.-size” political theater, and the enthusiasm gap will start to close.
Really? One wonders where Mr. Rich has been hanging out. That’s all we’ve seen from this administration – political theater. Very little that most voters would consider to be “progress” has been seen. And despite the fact that Democrats would love to tout health care as “progress”, politically they know it is an albatross around their necks.
So they’re left with a bad economic situation, a greatly diminished presidency and “Peggy” and the Indies all headed to Redland. And Rich’s answer is “do F.D.R. theater”, snub Republicans and engage in some heavy class-warfare. That after telling him at another point “he cannot merely make changes of campaign style.” Yeah, no confusion in lefty ranks … none whatsoever.
In reality, all of that is an example of lefty style jargon that never directly states the problem but dances all around it. However they do know what he has to do to remedy the problem. If he or MoDo had just said “get off the campaign trail and actually do something … lead!” they could have saved a whole bunch of column space in the NYT for something else worth reading.
Frank Rich has never seen an act by President Obama of which he didn’t approve or, if approval wasn’t really credibly possible, anything for which he couldn’t find an excuse. The oil spill is no exception:
Whatever Obama’s failings, he is infinitely more competent at coping with catastrophe than his predecessor. President Bush’s top disaster managers — the Homeland Security secretary, Michael Chertoff, as well as the notorious “Brownie” — professed ignorance of New Orleans’s humanitarian crisis a full day after the nation had started watching it live in real time on television. When Bush finally appeared, he shunned the city entirely and instead made a jocular show of vowing to rebuild the coastal home of his party’s former Senate leader, Trent Lott. He never did take charge.
The Obama administration has been engaged with the oil spill from the start — however haltingly and inarticulately at times. It was way too trusting of BP but was never AWOL. For all the second-guessing, it’s still not clear what else the president might have done to make a definitive, as opposed to cosmetic, difference in plugging the hole: yell louder at BP, send in troops and tankers, or, as James Carville would have it, assume the role of Big Daddy? The spill is not a Tennessee Williams play, its setting notwithstanding, and it’s hard to see what more drama would add, particularly since No Drama Obama’s considerable talents do not include credible play-acting.
It’s not clear what Bush could have done (or would have had to have done) had there been a competent mayor of New Orleans or governor of LA in office. Neither did their job. So the blame fell on Bush.
Obama faces a crisis in federal waters – not state. Those are waters that are his administration’s responsibility. Blame Bush won’t work. And neither will attempts to duck the Katrina comparisons.
Rich speaks of “airbrushing” of the facts surrounding Katrina. I must have missed that. But that is precisely what has already begun in the defense of Obama with this claim that he and his administration were “engaged” from “day one”. Reactions to oil spills which are standard operating procedure regardless of who is in office are not “engagement”. In fact, most wouldn’t consider them to have become really engaged in the spill for a week or two and then, it appeared to be minimally and reluctantly. In fact, it appeared to be a distraction, an annoyance of which the administration would prefer to be relieved.
If there is any “airbrushing” going on, the left has definitely been engaged in that since “day one”.
Rich claims that it was Bush who made the masses doubt the competence of government (with his Katrina performance). He says:
Long before Obama took office, the public was plenty skeptical that government could do anything right. Eight years of epic Bush ineptitude and waste only added to Washington’s odor. Now Obama is stuck between a rock and a Tea Party. His credibility as a champion of reformed, competent government is held hostage by video from the gulf. And this in an election year when the very idea of a viable federal government is under angrier assault than at any time since the Gingrich revolution and militia mobilization of 1994-5 and arguably since the birth of the modern conservative movement in the 1960s.
But why is the “idea of a viable federal government” under assault?
As usual, Rich wants’ to blame it on Bush. It is a tried and true blame shifting device that progressives have been deploying for the 18 months Obama’s been in office. They don’t seem to realize, however, that it lost its cache after about 6 months. This is Obama’s show now, and as Peggy Noonan points out, the problem is competence:
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.
But, as Noonan points out, over these 18 months, more and more Americans have come to the conclusion he’s not. Those are pretty ugly thoughts when it comes to this president to some I suppose, but in fact, he’s demonstrated nothing to persuade most people otherwise.
And it is the image of the deep water oil well gushing oil into the Gulf that Noonan turns into metaphor of the Obama presidency and why his competence is questioned. Think taxpayer and the borrowed money his administration has been responsible for spending, think the proposed trillion dollar budgets as far as the eye can see, think his disconnection with the priorities of the people for favored agenda items.
While this disaster might rightfully shine a light on BP and the oil industry’s lack of planning for such a problem, it also erodes the ability of politicians to sell government as the most competent answer to our problems. Government has a specific role for which it is most suited. Defense, legal and judicial systems, stable currency, and minimal legislation to enable and oversee those systems.
Beyond that, it becomes intrusive, cumbersome, highly bureaucratic, unresponsive and expensive. The oil spill simply points this out fairly graphically. Health care reform, as it comes into play over the years, will reinforce that point even further.
Noonan, who I believe supported the Obama candidacy, is bothered by the effect the spill and Obama’s disconnectedness and inept governing to this point will have on his presidency. It is I think her way of saying, in a nuanced way, that she regrets her choice:
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.
For the most part, I agree with her point that we and the world are best served by a President who is held in high esteem by his or her citizenry. But that’s something that is earned, not just given. This man sought the presidency after slamming the competence of his predecessor on every occasion possible. And when confronted by a disaster of his own, we get this:
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.
You reap what you sow. When you slam the opposition and their leader as incompetent (I recall that word used often by sitting Democratic leadership) you imply that if you’re elected, you won’t be incompetent. It’s his standard and right now he’s hoist on his own petard.
Most impartial observers haven’t seen much competence displayed in the past 18 months. Not only has the administration seemingly not been up to the job, they’ve attempted to continue the blame-shifting that worked for the first 6 months of their existence, apparently still not realizing who is now President of the United States.
This is all yours, Mr. Obama.
Lead or go find something else to do.
I assume this AP story won’t quite get the coverage or have the legs that the unsubstantiated stories about racist slurs being hurled at members of the black caucus received:
They’ve been called Oreos, traitors and Uncle Toms, and are used to having to defend their values. Now black conservatives are really taking heat for their involvement in the mostly white tea party movement—and for having the audacity to oppose the policies of the nation’s first black president.
“I’ve been told I hate myself. I’ve been called an Uncle Tom. I’ve been told I’m a spook at the door,” said Timothy F. Johnson, chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group of black conservatives who support free market principles and limited government.
Johnson and other black conservatives say they were drawn to the tea party movement because of what they consider its commonsense fiscal values of controlled spending, less taxes and smaller government. The fact that they’re black—or that most tea partyers are white—should have nothing to do with it, they say.
“You have to be honest and true to yourself. What am I supposed to do, vote Democratic just to be popular? Just to fit in?” asked Clifton Bazar, a 45-year-old New Jersey freelance photographer and conservative blogger.
I throw this out there for the Frank Rich’s of the world who’re convinced that a) all Tea Partiers are racists and b) only Tea Partiers can be racist. If Rich is really that concerned about racism, isn’t about time he addressed this blatant example?
CNN adds a little more for contemplation as it covered 5 stops on the western Tea Party tour:
But here’s what you don’t often see in the coverage of Tea Party rallies: Patriotic signs professing a love for country; mothers and fathers with their children; African-Americans proudly participating; and senior citizens bopping to a hip-hop rapper.
It is important to show the colorful anger Americans might have against elected leaders and Washington. But people should also see the orange-vested Tea Party hospitality handlers who welcome you with colorful smiles.
There were a few signs that could be seen as offensive to African-Americans. But by and large, no one I spoke with or I heard from on stage said anything that was approaching racist.
Almost everyone I met was welcoming to this African-American television news producer.
That can’t be right can it – after all, Frank Rich has assured us that the Tea Parties are the new home of the racists. And Steve Cohen has made it clear that they’re just klansman without robes.
Conclusion? I guess you just can’t trust CNN, huh?
If the Obama administration were a flotilla of ships, it might be sending out an SOS right about now. ObamaCare has hit the political equivalent of an iceberg. And last week the president’s international prestige was broadsided by the Scots, who set free the Lockerbie bomber without the least consideration of American concerns. Mr. Obama’s campaign promise of restoring common sense to budget management is sleeping with the fishes.
This administration needs a win. Or more accurately, it can’t bear another loss right now.
Of course what she’s talking about is the administration’s foreign policy and in particular Honduras. However that has become a bit of a side-show in comparison with the domestic politics now thundering from DC to the townhalls of America.
Kurtz is noticing a disturbing trend if your an Obama administration fan. The base is not happy. And they’re starting to sound off about it.
He cites Krugman, Clarence Page, David Corn and Frank Rich as part of the leftist chattering class losing confidence in the chosen one.
That can’t be good. But some of it is inevitable:
A president is going to be smacked around from the moment he takes office and the uplifting rhetoric of campaign rallies meets the gritty reality of governing.
But what Kurtz is talking about isn’t the “inevitable”. It’s more than that. It carries more than a hint of disillusionment. He quotes David Corn, for instance, claiming that some of Obama’s policies:
“… have caused concern, if not outright anger, among certain liberal commentators and bloggers. It’s been a more conventional White House than many people expected or desired. . . . He’s made compromises that have some people concerned about his adherence to principle.”
For Corn and the liberal left, he’s been much more “conventional” than expected and that bothers them. “Change” was read by them to mean much more radical change than they’ve seen. The question, of course, is were they mistaken on what they interpreted change to mean or, to extend O’Grady’s metaphor, is the reality of governing causing the liberal ship to founder? Either way the Corn contingent isn’t going to be happy.
Arrianna Huffington, among others I’m sure, spots the problem I talked about yesterday – lack of leadership:
Arianna Huffington has lamented Obama’s “lack of leadership,” asking: “How could someone with a renowned ability to inspire, communicate complex ideas, and connect with voters find himself in this position?”
For the reasons I covered yesterday, this isn’t likely to improve. And that again is because it is one thing to communicate complex ideas and another to implement them. The former takes nothing more than a competent rhetorician while the latter demands a leader.
And even Paul Krugman is getting that creepy feeling that a leadership deficit is becoming more and more evident:
“Mr. Obama was never going to get everything his supporters wanted. But there’s a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side of that line.”
So why this sudden disenchantment? As Kurtz points out, Obama’s history was known to everyone – the Krugmans, Richs, Corns and Huffingtons of this world:
It’s easy to forget, in light of Obama’s global celebrity, that five years ago he was a state senator in Illinois. Given his short tenure as a national figure, Obama finds himself having to prove, at least to the opinion-mongers, what he’s really made of. “Is He Weak?” asked a recent Jim Hoagland column, on foreign policy, in The Post.
Is he weak? Well, again, given that 5 years ago he was hanging out in the Illinois State Senate and since that he’s spent 2 years as a junior Senator in DC what would a reasonable person expect? What has he done that would indicate he’d be something else?
Of course this was all brought up prior to the election and waved away by the same pundits who are now, suddenly, finding out that their knight in shining armor is actually Don Quixote.
Now suddenly Obama isn’t living up to their expectations.
The president’s liberal critics tend to cluster around particular issues. Some see health reform as making or breaking Obama’s first term. Others are disappointed at the pace of withdrawal from Iraq, the escalation in Afghanistan and the delay in closing Guantanamo Bay. Still others argue that Obama should be leading the charge to investigate terrorism-related abuses during the Bush administration.
Of course that’s why the DoJ decision to pursue charges against the CIA is seen as a political sop to this part of Obama’s base (something which will eventually blow up in the administration’s face). But the bottom line is Obama just isn’t meeting the expectations of those who worked so hard to put him in office.
The reason for that is evident for some and becoming more evident to others. Krugman has figured it out although he can’t quite bring himself to say it and even Arrianna Huffington is beginning to understand the real problem – there’s a leadership vacuum in Washington, and it isn’t likely to be filled anytime soon. And liberals better get used to being both disappointed and disenchanted.
Yesterday I mentioned Paul Krugman’s trashing of the Geithner plan, now the NYT op-ed page triumvirate of MoDo, Thomas Friedman and Frank Rich take a few shots as well.
Friedman tried mightily to temper his criticism by claiming the that GOP was using this horrible crisis as an opportunity for partisan bashing.
We’re in a once-a-century financial crisis, and yet we’ve actually descended into politics worse than usual. There don’t seem to be any adults at the top — nobody acting larger than the moment, nobody being impelled by anything deeper than the last news cycle. Instead, Congress is slapping together punitive tax laws overnight like some Banana Republic, our president is getting in trouble cracking jokes on Jay Leno comparing his bowling skills to a Special Olympian, and the opposition party is behaving as if its only priority is to deflate President Obama’s popularity.
Interesting. Friedman was no where in sight, of course, when Democrats were engaged in precisely what he accuses the Republicans of doing during the war in Iraq. As with many on the left, apparently history started on January 20th of this year.
OTOH, deflating Obama’s popularity is politically important to the GOP, because anyone who watches politics knows full well that Obama plans to trade on his popularity to pass the economy killing legislation he want to see passed. This ain’t bean bag, Mr. Friedman.
Frank Rich likens this crisis to “Bush’s Katrina moment”:
A charming visit with Jay Leno won’t fix it. A 90 percent tax on bankers’ bonuses won’t fix it. Firing Timothy Geithner won’t fix it. Unless and until Barack Obama addresses the full depth of Americans’ anger with his full arsenal of policy smarts and political gifts, his presidency and, worse, our economy will be paralyzed. It would be foolish to dismiss as hyperbole the stark warning delivered by Paulette Altmaier of Cupertino, Calif., in a letter to the editor published by The Times last week: “President Obama may not realize it yet, but his Katrina moment has arrived.”
Rich implies that Obama doesn’t recognize the depth of political risk this crisis carries for him. And I agree. Obama, it appears, thinks he can lay this all off on “inherited” problems. But he can’t. It’s his now. While it may have been right to say New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco were the real reason Katrina was a fiasco, that’s not who much of the public ended up blaming. Bush too seemed not to understand the depth and breadth of the anger (whether right or not) that Katrina spawned. Obama seems even less aware of the risk, jetting around the country having moved on to defending his budget and appearing on comedy shows while the financial crisis lingers and deepens. As I’ve said a number of times on this blog, it is all about leadership, or the lack thereof. In reality, it is the “lack thereof” on which both Rich and Friedman are actually commenting.
Maureen Dowd wonders if, after watching Michelle Obama talk about the White House garden, perhaps the wrong Obama is in the Oval Office. She then let’s the male Obama have it with both barrels:
It’s a time in America’s history where we need less smooth jazz and more martial brass.
Barack Obama prides himself on consensus, soothing warring sides into agreement. But the fury directed at the robber barons by the robbed blind in America has been getting hotter, not cooler. And that’s because the president and his Treasury secretary have been coddling the Wall Street elite, fretting that if they curtail executives’ pay and perks too much, if they make the negotiations with those who siphoned our 401(k)’s too tough, the spoiled Sherman McCoys will run away, the rescue plan will fail and the markets will wither. (Now that Mr. Obama has made $8,605,429 on his books — including $500,000 for letting his memoir be condensed into a kids’ book — maybe he’s lost touch with his hole-in-the-shoe, hole-in-the-Datsun, have-not roots.)
Despite all the appeals to class warfare, what is at the base of her criticism?
Lack. Of. Leadership.
The nation elected someone who has never once been in a position in which he had to lead. Mr. Obama is a charmer and someone who knows what to say to please his audiences. But he’s never had to translate what he says into action. He’s never had to really take full ownership of his agenda, at whatever level, and implement it. He has never had to ‘make it happen’.
Where does one learn to do those sorts of things? From experience. Take a new lieutenant and make him a battalion commander and I can promise one poorly led battalion which will fail at its first leadership test. That’s because the LT isn’t a leader yet. He first had to serve as a platoon leader and learn leadership skills. Then if he does well there and is advanced in rank, he’ll eventually get a chance to become a company commander and fine tune those skills with a larger organization. Again, if he shines and is further advanced in rank and responsibility, he may get a shot at a battalion command. But he will first prove himself to everyone’s satisfaction at the lower level leadership positions before he is even considered for that job.
Anyone – what lower level position held by Barack Obama did he demonstrate the leadership necessary to do the job he now holds? Why is charm more important politically than experience and leadership abilities?
Apparently Krugman, Dowd, Rich and Friedman are suddenly discovering what many of us have understood from the beginning – Obama is completely unqualified for the job he holds.
Unfortunately for all of us, if ever there was a worst time for such a man to be President of the United States, this is probably it.