Free Markets, Free People

competence

The obligatory “here come the midterms” post

Meh.  I’ve come to realize, given the last few wave elections, that if either of the two majority parties are in charge, little if anything will change significantly. Or said another way, for the next 2 years, we’re in for the same nonsense we’re suffering now and the only thing that will change is the name of the Senate majority leader.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of divided government. I like” do nothing” Congress, because divided government means fewer laws entailing government interference are likely to pass. However, that doesn’t change the fact that both parties are heavily invested in interfering with our lives. They simply have different priorities in that regard.

That said, let’s look at the mood of the country prior to the selection.  POLITICO starts us off with a handy chart:

politico_poll_generic_ballot

Too bad we don’t have the “none of the above option”.  Me thinks the gray wedge would be significantly larger.  As with most recent elections, there’s a large “hold your nose and vote” segment at play here.

However, that particular part of the poll isn’t the most interesting to me.  These results say more about the “mood” than any:

- Terrorism: Eighty-four percent of voters say the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant poses a “serious” threat to the U.S. homeland, including 43 percent who say it poses a “very serious” threat. Just 12 percent said the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, is not a serious concern.

This is an Obama made problem and he and the voters know it.  And if it is an Obama-made problem, then it is also a problem for the Democrats.  But more importantly, it reflects a belief is how poorly this administration has handled the terrorism problem.  They didn’t buy the “JV” wave-off and, it seems, are much more able than our security experts to see the type and possibility of the threat ISIS poses to the US homeland.   When you have an enemy that will go to any extreme to get to you and doesn’t mind if they die doing it, you have a formidable threat facing you.  And while you may have more of a chance of being hit by lightning or winning the lottery than being a victim of ISIS terrorism here, please don’t try to sell these people on ISIS not being a threat here.  This also reflects a tremendous amount of distrust the public in general have for anything this administration puts out there.

- Health care: Most voters believe their health care costs will go up under the Affordable Care Act. Fifty-seven percent said they believe their personal costs will increase, while only 7 percent said they will decrease. A third said their costs would remain the same. (At the same time, support for repealing Obamacare has continued to drop, now down to 41 percent.)

Here’s another huge trust in government issue that has been a disaster for Democrats.  This is one they own lock, stock and barrel.  Thus far they’ve been able to mostly manage the bad news to fall after elections.  But that’s unlikely to help them when 2106 rolls around.  ObamaCare has, for the most part, failed in every way possible.  We now have reports of less people availing themselves of routine health care because the deductibles are so large they can’t afford the visits.  If you don’t think this is a part of the mid-term calculations by voters then you have to believe there’s no reason to withhold the increases for insurance until after the election.

- Presidential management: Voters in the midterm battleground states are evenly split on whether President Barack Obama or George W. Bush was more effective at managing the federal government. Thirty-eighty percent named Bush, while 35 percent preferred Obama. A quarter of respondents said the two men were equally competent.

As hard as the left and Democrats worked to make Bush the poster boy for bad government, this one has to hurt.  All hail the new poster boy, and the GOP hasn’t had to even break a sweat selling this one.  Most, if not all of Obama’s failures have been via self-inflicted wounds.  Will there be a portion of the voters who use the mid-terms as a referendum on the President?  You bet there will.  This guy is about as bad as we’ve ever had, and voters are going to make that point in November.

That brings us to this last issue in this particular poll which pretty well makes an important point I want made:

- Ebola: Only 22 percent of respondents said they had a lot of confidence that the government is doing everything it can to contain the contagious disease. Thirty-nine percent they had some confidence, while a third said they had little or no confidence. The poll concluded Oct. 11, before the hospitalization of the second nurse who treated an Ebola patient in Dallas.

Confidence in government and the competence of this administration are at rock bottom.  I welcome that.  Ebola just happens to be the latest issue to demonstrate both executive and bureaucratic fumbling and incompetence.  The only consistent thing this administration has done is demonstrate that.  The guy whose goal it was to make “government cool” again, has failed miserably.  I welcome that as well.  I’d like to see the point understood by more.  Instead of success, we’ve seen an increasingly intrusive but ossified bureaucracy fail time after time when tasked to do their job.  They may not know it, but that’s one of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, that 64% of Americans believe “things in the U.S. feel like they are out of control right now.” We’ve seen how politics has subverted our public servants into servants of the party in power.  And we’ve also seen various government agencies hold themselves to be above the law in certain instances.  How changing parties at midterm will change any of that remains a mystery.

Usually at this point before an election, analysts have decided who will decide the election.  You remember “Soccer Moms” etc.  Well, this year it’s simply “women”.  Women will decide this.  And the implication is that women have always been more of a Democratic constituency than a Republican one … for various reasons.  Well, that may not pan out for the Dems this year and of all people, Tina Brown explains why:

But, you know, the fact is that Obama’s down with everybody, let’s face it, there’s a reason,” Brown said. “And I think that particularly for women. I don’t think it makes them feel safe. I think they’re feeling unsafe. Economically, they’re feeling unsafe. With regard to ISIS, they’re feeling unsafe. They feel unsafe about Ebola. What they’re feeling unsafe about is the government response to different crises. And I think they’re beginning to feel a bit that Obama’s like that guy in the corner office, you know, who’s too cool for school, calls a meeting, says this has to change, doesn’t put anything in place to make sure it does change, then it goes wrong and he’s blaming everybody. So there’s a slight sense of that.”

If you’re not feeling unsafe with this clown in office, then you have no fear.  Security – safety – is one of the key reasons women consider a vote for a candidate (or so the experts tell us).   If that’s the case and we go with the “women will decide the vote” meme, then Dems are in even worse shape than I thought.

And I welcome that as well.

~McQ

Observations: The Qando Podcast for 20 Jun 10

In this podcast, Bruce and Dale discuss the dissatisfaction about President Obama’s competence, the oil spill, and the American stranded in Egypt.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Bush gets higher marks in Louisiana than does Obama

I’m sure it will somehow become a matter of race, but a recent Public Policy Polling survey showed that 50% of the state voters rated President Bush’s performance in 2005 after hurricane Katrina as better than the effort by President Obama today. Only 35% picked Obama’s performance as the best. That’s not to say the state was satisfied with either response. On the contrary, 62% said they disapproved of Obama’s handling of the crisis while 58% said they disapproved of Bush’s performance.

Meanwhile, another new poll finds that Obama’s approval rating has hit a new low:

Rasmussen Reports released a new poll Wednesday showing Obama’s approval rating hitting a new low — 42 percent. The daily tracking poll puts a 20-point spread between Obama’s strong approval and disapproval, 24 and 44 percent respectively.

That last poll tracks with the poll reported previously that found a majority of Americans didn’t believe Obama deserved re-election.

The continuing bad news in the polls has got to be worrying the crew in the White House. It’s not at a point, given the election is still 2 years off, that anyone there has to panic, but they’ve got a job on their hands turning this around. The building conventional wisdom seems to be that Obama is an administrator, not a leader, and that, given his performance, is going to be a tough meme to kill. The other CW seems to be he may be in over his head. The polls reflect both of those perceptions.

The president and his staff have got to find a way to cast Obama as a decisive and competent leader. That’s a real problem right now, although unfortunately, given the simmering international situation, they may get more opportunities than they ever sought to make the attempt.

Of course many of the upcoming international opportunities, we’ll learn, will come about precisely because Obama isn’t a strong and decisive leader.

Irony, it seems, has a warped sense of humor and always seems to throw more opportunities at those that want them least.

~McQ

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Frank Rich v. Peggy Noonan – compare and contrast “competent”

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.

~McQ

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