During the election (now thankfully over) we heard a lot about the plans Mr. Obama had for his administration.
Well, it’s been a month now, and Tony Blankley is looking past the rhetoric to attempt to glean some ideas regarding Obama’s management style. Reading Mr. Blankley’s analysis of the “priority items Obama claimed he was determined to address” one does not come away with any sense of confidence in the new administration. Or rather, the essay reinforced my sense of gloom about the new guy.
The important decisions, which Obama said would get his “personal attention” are almost embarrassing to point out, since he has tripped over every one of them. Here they are, in the order Mr. Blankley addresses them:
- Cabinet selection
- closing Gitmo
- the stimulus package, and
Mr. Blankley says that Obama has admitted “screwing up” vis-à-vis his Cabinet selections, but observes that the President doesn’t really address this “screw up”. I noticed at the time he said it, that Obama’s rhetoric on this subject was vague, similar in style to the old cliché, “mistakes were made”. Any politician using that phrase is stonewalling and that would seem the case for Obama’s various picks for his Cabinet.
He has chosen tax cheats, Clinton re-treads, and incompetents. Some of his administration appointees are downright alarming from a security perspective.
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Blankley pointedly inquires:
…But from a management perspective, the unanswered question is: How did he “screw up”? Did he actively design the failed vetting process and actively assess the various negative pieces of information and fail to see their significance? Or did he “screw up” by letting others design the failed system and assess the data inflow? The former would show poor substantive judgment. The latter would show he wasn’t paying sufficient attention to a presumably vital matter. We don’t know yet which kind of “screw-up” it was.
And we’re not likely to find out. It would appear sometimes that President Obama, like the Campaigner Obama, holds his cards so close to his vest that even he doesn’t know what he’s got in his hand.
Then there is Gitmo. That was a big issue for the Bush Derangement folks, who form a large section of his core support. They must be bitterly disappointed that Obama was not down in Cuba on Day Two, unlocking the cells himself.
What really happened was even more disturbing to those of us who were interested to see how he would handle this sticky situation. Turns out, all he did was plunge his presidential hand into that tar baby, and then ask what it was he’d done. So now he’s stuck with the same mess that plagued President Bush. The only difference is that the MSM will give Obama a pass on this, as they already have on so many of his missteps.
Gitmo looked so easy from the outside, but when the time came to sign the executive order, President Obama’s ignorance about what he was actually affixing his name to was embarrassing to watch. As Blankley observes, the main issue has always been what to do with these dangerous terrorists:
Thus, it was breathtaking that at the signing ceremony, President Obama didn’t know how — or even whether — his executive order was dealing with this central quandary. [my emphasis — D]
President Obama: “And we then provide, uh, the process whereby Guantanamo will be closed, uh, no later than one year from now. We will be, uh. … Is there a separate, uh, executive order, Greg, with respect to how we’re going to dispose of the detainees? Is that, uh, written?”
White House counsel Greg Craig: “We’ll set up a process.”
To be at the signing ceremony and not know what he was ordering done with the terrorist inmates is a level of ignorance about equivalent to being a groom at the altar in a wedding ceremony and asking who it is you are marrying.
In other words, not caring much who you are marrying, either, just so long as you’re married — or in this case, just so long as the cameras are flashing and your title is “Mr. President, sir”. Notice that both the President and his advisor call this a “process”. This seems to be a favored term in Obama’s lexicon.
Given the publicity stunt that Obama set up for signing this executive order, his behavior was sorely lacking in gravitas or wisdom. It was all about appearances and he certainly did look swell with all those American flags. But didn’t he or anyone else on Air Force One think he should be briefed in full on the flight from Washington to Denver? The man looked like a fool at the signing but he rode to power on the fumes of adoration, so the performance bar for him has been substantially lowered.
Blankley finds Obama’s lack of “personal involvement” in the crafting of the stimulus process “curious”. Given the two examples of his management style above (i.e., all style, no management) I think his failure to work with Congress on this — leaving Pelosi and the gang to pour on the pork — is congruent with the rest of his behavior so far. He strikes me as a person who is easily bored and heaven only knows that reading one thousand pages of bumf — even astronomically expensive bumf — is not something he’s likely to do. Unlike Bill Clinton, this president is not a policy wonk.
I find myself longing for the relative sanity of Clinton’s approach. At the very least, he knew what he was talking about, even when he was lying. At the time, I bemoaned the fact that we had a president who’d never done any real work, all he had for experience was public office. Now, he looks like a statesman in comparison. I repeat, in comparison.
Obama stayed on the sidelines, pushing the vote on the “stimulus process” (it remains to be seen what this “process” will actually stimulate). Blankley again:
Thus, as he has identified the stimulus as essential to the recovery process, his willingness to let House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid design a bill that, even now that it’s passed, Mr. Obama has continued to criticize as needing improvement (on bank executive compensation) leaves one puzzled as to why he didn’t use his currently vast political clout with his own party allies to shape a bill more to his liking.
Mr. Obama is quickly becoming a mystery wrapped in an enigma, etc. And he is not going to make any friends on the Hill by criticizing the Dems.
The last item is that pesky little campaign promise about bipartisanship. What a joke. Not only did he sit out the game of crafting the stimulus package, but he did nothing to encourage inclusion of the Republicans in a huge appropriations process.
President Obama is the head of the Democrat Party. As such it is his duty to reach across the aisle and to encourage Senators and Congressmen to do likewise. However, as in the other three “promises” he’s been all talk and no walk. He has permitted disrespectful behavior by the Dems against the Republicans in Congress and thereby has aided in creating a contentious atmosphere on Capitol Hill. Is this some kind of divide-and-conquer plan or is the President merely a passive observer of the legislative branch?
Mr. Blankley sees four possible reasons for Obama’s detachment. [scroll down]
In my view, what we’ve seen so far is merely a logical extension of some of the more genuine moments we glimpsed on the campaign trail…remember the incident when Obama the Campaigner was approached during his breakfast in a Scranton diner? Instead of answering the reporter’s question, Obama complained, “why can’t I just eat my waffles?”
That little scene may be emblematic of the new President’s character. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but will Obama delegate all the boring stuff to his swollen White House staff while he continues to levitate above it all?
A brief aside: Some presidents are players. They love politics, the wheeling-and-dealing, the nitty-gritty details of political life. Others are more likely to let someone else decide the strategy and do the behind-the-scenes dirty work of making the engine of the Executive office manage to chug along.
In the first case, among the players you can count Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton as familiar examples. Their characterological make-up was such that they enjoyed the rough and tumble of the Presidency.
Those who were played, I think, include Jimmy Carter (had he ruled in earlier ages, along with “Ethelred the Unready” there would have been a “Carter the Clueless”), followed by both Bush père and fils. Carter relied heavily on Zbigniew Brzezinski for his foreign policy decisions. Bush and Reagan would also employ him, but not to the extent that Carter needed Brzezinski for speeches and policy. It was Brzezinski who dreamed up the covert support of the mujahideen in Afghanistan and we all know where that led. Can anyone say 9/11?
Bush 41 was played by his generals, particularly Colin Powell, which led to the Gulf War I debacle and a one-term presidency.
Just as the terms “BushRove” and “BushCheney” were used to describe the former President’s policies, you can expect to see “ObamaEmanuel” in the editorial pages any day now. Rahm Emanuel is the player that President Obama is not and Emanuel plays to win. No one argues that he plays dirty, or that he doesn’t enjoy it — that’s why he’s there.
Levitate on, Mr. President. It will be a talent you’ll need to keep your feet dry when the economy tsunami drowns the rest of us.