The mainstream media for some time has been searching for material to bolster Barack Obama’s flimsy résumé. After all, he lacks national security experience, has no major legislative accomplishments, and never held an executive position. Not to worry, say the liberal cheerleaders. Peter Beinart raised a typical defense:
Luckily, Obama doesn’t have to rely on his legislative résumé to prove he’s capable of running the government. He can point to something more germane: the way he’s run his campaign.
Politico presented the Obama camp argument that “Obama has run a good primary campaign, which is a sign that he will run a good general election campaign, and then a good presidency.” And indeed many outlets reported on the obvious contrast between the “happy” Obama camp and the pack of backstabbers at the Hillary Clinton camp who publicly dished dirt on one another.
Accepting for the sake of argument that a political campaign can foreshadow an administration, it is worthwhile to update some of these media evaluations to see just how effective a chief executive Obama has been.
Some of the key attributes of leadership generally, and of good presidents in particular, are the ability to tackle problems head on, not procrastinate, and certainly not engage in wishful thinking that bad news will vanish on its own. But Obama’s campaign has been an exercise in damage non-control on the issue which poses the greatest threat to his electability: his associations with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Father Michael Pfleger, and Trinity United Church.
When he began his campaign he realized Reverend Wright might be an issue, so he not very subtly pushed Wright out of the kick-off ceremonies. But he did not prepare his campaign and develop an approach to deal with what would become the drip, drip, drip of YouTube releases and corresponding cringe-inducing headlines about his association with black liberation theology, and the hate-spewing preachers who regularly spoke at Trinity United.
In the unfolding tale of Reverend Wright, Karl Rove pointed out, “In just 62 days, Americans were treated to eight different explanations.” And that was all before Obama finally left Trinity United following Father Pfleger’s hateful attack on Hillary Clinton. Others have recounted the hopscotch of explanations: from denial that the church was controversial to defense of his continued relationship with Reverend Wright — whom he could no more “disown” than he could the black community or his own grandmother, the one he slandered, that is — to separation from Wright but defense of the church to departure from the church.
As a model of presidential managerial skill this was hardly reassuring. The textbook rules of damage control for any executive are well known: find out or disclose the facts — all the facts — up front, come up with a response that addresses the problem, stick to it, and get it right the first time. Obama ignored all these rules. Repeatedly. So if voters are concerned that our next president not dilly dally when trouble appears, this should give them pause.