Thursday, April 19, 2012

Obama: in over his head

In a speech in North Carolina yesterday, Romney said of President Obama:
...He’s in over his head, and he’s swimming in the wrong direction.
Romney goes on to criticize the administration, with regard to its economic policies and initiatives, essentially setting up the "are you better off now than you were four years ago" argument. And that's likely a winner. Whether or not it will be sufficient to overcome Romney's flaws and allow him to defeat Obama in the General Election remains on open question. But that said, the idea that the President is in over his head deserves additional analysis, in my opinion.

Obama won the Presidency with a very limited resume, as far as executive experiences goes. With a law degree from Harvard and a BA in political science from Columbia, he looked tailor-made for a public service career, it is true, yet the last three years have made it clear--in my opinion--that Obama's knowledge is wanting in several key errors.

Of course the President's job is to lead, not to know everything; he has advisers, staff, and Cabinet members--and multiple government bureaucracies--to help assemble and understand needed information. This is just as true in Congress, of course, where the President "made his bones," so to speak. But there's a difference: Congress critters need to know things on a limited basis, largely with regard to the effect of such things on their constituencies--and their reelection chances--alone. They are, as a group, spoon fed general policy positions by Party leadership.

The President--in contrast--makes policy, decides positions. And thus, it is of critical importance whom the President decides to listen to, whom he picks to help him make such decisions.

Contrast the differences in Bush and Obama, in this regard.

For a VP candidate, Obama selected a long-time legislator, a professional politician, whose career is devoid of experience in the private sector, who has learned the trick of surviving DC: don't let anyone nail you down to anything. Bush--worried about the choice--enlisted family friend and former Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to help with the vetting of potential candidates. Ultimately, Bush selected Cheney, who brought a long career in public service at various levels, along with extensive experience in the private sector, and a rich life history to the office.

Obama's "inner circle" consists of people like David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett, Chicago politicos more interested in ideology and power than anything else with little to offer in the way of expertise, outside that of political machinations. His first pick to chair the Council of Economic Advisers was Christine Romer, whose entire career is limited to academia, to theory, centered on the assumption that government policy can drive economic growth. Simply put, they all "mesh." And unsurprisingly, Joe Biden is an afterthought, here.

Bush's inner circle included Condoleezza Rice--again, someone with experience on multiple fronts: academia and private business--and Donald Rumsfeld, whose career and breadth of experience is, simply put, vast. Then, there is the first chair of Bush's Council of Economic Advisers, Glenn Hubbard. Like Romer, he is an academic, but with actual experience--as a former Treasury Department official--in government and the private sector (in an entrepreneurial program). The kicker: he didn't always agree with Bush; Bush didn't always agree with him. And of course, Cheney remained an integral part of the group.

George W. Bush was largely considered to be weak--intellectually speaking--by his political foes and most of the media, while Obama is considered to be strong in that regard. Yet Bush surrounded himself with people possessing a great depth and breadth of knowledge, while Obama surrounded himself with a group that looks much more like a secret society, all with the same views, the same ideas, and the same absolute certainty of their "rightness." And three years in, Obama's team is clearly out of its depth; the Administration has an abysmal record, with its two signature efforts--the Stimulus and Obamacare--easily portrayed as massive failures.

In my view, the Administration is floundering. And frankly, it looked a lot better when Rahm Emanuel was still there. He, at least, was a political realist.

Cheers, all.


  1. Nice post, but I'd rather see a comparison of Obama and what you think Romney will do differently. Where'd he staff from as Governor? I dunno.

  2. Well, right of the bat Romney has a personal knowledge basis that goes beyond Obama's in several ways. And really, goes beyond that of Obama's core group, as well. From there? I dunno, but Romney is far less ideological than Obama; I suspect he'll staff from all over the place.

  3. I'd suggest the Peter Principle describes Obama, but there's no evidence in his record he's succeeded at anything.

  4. He was a successful student...which is more than can be said about me. ;)