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Ed Driscoll

Barry Munchkin Syndrome

April 29th, 2013 - 6:57 pm

BHO is “Good at campaigning, bad at governing,” Salena Zito writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

President Obama is a good campaigner. He won the big one twice and effectively made Republicans question their electoral existence. He also has shown once again, by not effectively managing his own agenda, that he has no appetite for governing.

Nothing proved that more than his approach to gun-control legislation.

Yes, he made lofty speeches, emotionally gripped the hands and shoulders of gun-crime victims, held dinners with Republicans and conservative Democrats whom he needed to pass a gun bill — all great theater, but great theater is rarely enough.

The truth is, Obama has serious coalition-management issues and lacks basic managerial competency. Tactically, he chose to act blustery and self-righteous while, strategically, he sought the path of least resistance in actual negotiations and willingly outsourced the details of legislative agreement to others.

All in all, he vastly underestimated how his tactics undermined his strategic goals.

That is an unnerving prospect for supporters of immigration reform as that proposal makes its way to the forefront of congressional debate.

Obama had everything he needed to get a gun bill passed — support in the polls, raw empathy for recent victims, Senate members willing to cross the aisle — yet he never dirtied his hands to get the job done.

“Obama is a great orator but a lousy convincer,” explained Steffen Schmidt, Iowa State University political science professor.

Schmidt said Obama “just does not have the skill set or the self-confidence to get into the Jell-O pit and wrestle with the members of his own party and a few Republicans to close the deal … another skill he doesn’t have is to log-roll and cut deals in a pragmatic way.”

Yes. The word this article is searching for is…“Munchkin.”

No, really. Or as Jim Geraghty noted in late February, also using the M-Word, “You Can’t Community-Organize Your Way Out of a Sequester.”

Permit me to spotlight a funny recent essay by Red State contributor Moe Lane, where he examines the skills and philosophy of President Obama through the lens of role-playing games:

To begin with: a munchkin (or power gamer, or mini-maxer, or a bunch of terms that cannot be repeated here) is a type of gamer (roleplaying, computer, roleplaying-computer) who looks for loopholes in the rules – because games have rules, and there isn’t a rule-set in the world that cannot be manipulated by somebody with enough motivation/obsession.  And it turns out that the American Democratic primary system was full of such loopholes, which is why Barack Obama won the nomination in 2008 despite losing almost all the big Democratic primary states (and arguably the popular vote, depending on how you score Michigan).  And it also turns out that the intersection of our electoral system with our rapidly-expanding online culture can produce what computer gamers call “exploits:” which is to say, a glitch in the system that gives someone an unintended benefit (if it just crashes the system, it’s a bug).  Strictly speaking, the system is not designed to elevate a state Senator to the Presidency in five years – for what turned out to be very good reasons – but it can be done.

Mini-maxing is when a player designs a character that is fantastically good at one thing, at the expense of everything else.  So you could end up with a character who is, say, obscenely good at hitting things with a sword – but can’t convince a bunch of sailors to drink free beer.  The mini-maxer doesn’t mind; he’ll just go around the game trying to resolve as many problems as he can by hitting them with a sword (tabletop gamers – err, “D&D players” – often call this The Gun is My Skill List, although obviously substitute a sword for a gun in the name).  The problems that the mini-maxer can’t resolve that way he’ll either ignore until later, or else flail about on the screen while hitting the buttons quickly and/or at random (“button-mashing”), in the hopes that eventually the laws of probability will allow him to bull on through anyway.

And that’s where we are now.  Barack Obama knows how to do one thing: elect Barack Obama to public office.  And that’s not ‘elect Democrats.’  Or ‘elect liberals.’  Or even ‘elect people that Barack Obama likes.’  It’s just him: his team is trying pretty hard right now to figure out how to use their over-specialized skill more generally, but they don’t have much time to figure it out and the system is actually rigged against them in this case.  Barack Obama certainly doesn’t know how to govern effectively; take away a Congress that will rubber-stamp the Democratic agenda and he flails about.  He’s so bad at this, in fact, that when confronted with a situation where all he had to do was do nothing to fulfill a campaign promise (the tax cuts) we somehow ended up with a situation where Obama gave in on 98% of those tax cuts and voluntarily signed up to take the blame for the AMT fix.  In short: Obama was woefully unprepared for the Presidency, and he hasn’t really spent the last four years trying to catch up.  Instead, he goes from situation to situation either trying to recast the problem in ways that he does have some skill in (permanent campaigning for office), or else… flail about on the scene while hitting people’s buttons quickly and/or at random, in the hopes that eventually the laws of probability will allow him to bull on through anyway.

Dipping into the Book of Saul can only go so far, James Taranto writes today. “Power constrains because it entails responsibility, and Alinskyite tactics are designed to take advantage of those constraints for the benefit of the powerless. Such tactics have backfired on Obama repeatedly because he seems not to understand that they are ill-suited to power politics.”

And note this quote underneath:

“Obama happens to be president at a time when virtually all of the nation’s social institutions are losing the public’s trust and facing irrelevancy in the digital age.”–Ron Fournier,, April 29

Why yes, that is from Taranto’s recurring “Fox Butterfield, Is That You?” category.

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Tis article fully explores a comment I had been making for months, that Obama is completely brilliant at winning elections, and looking cool on talk shows and PR events, but at virtually anything else he is an empty suit.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Alinskyite tactics require responsible adult opposition. The reason ObamaCare is such a clusterf*ck is that it is like a public employee union's initial proposal to the employer; it had every "gimme" goodie that every malcontent in the entire constituency wanted in it and was designed to be summarily rejected by the "man." Then the union/Democrats would go on TV and talk about what an evil, parsimonious SOB the "man" was and the "man" would start negotiating with himself to try to get some part of the Democrat's proposal that the Democrats would actually accept. In twenty years of dealing with Alinskyite union reps, I NEVER got a meaningful proposal from one. They started out with unicorn farts and fairy dust and made you do the work from there. I learned that if I seriously wanted them under contract, I could do the work and by threatening them with real pain, get them under contract. If I didn't care, I could let them be themselves and they'd either sit there vibrating or go into an orgy of self-destruction that was often fun to watch.

National Republicans have never really gotten beyond bucking up and doing the work that the Alinskyite children won't do; they haven't learned to let them be their childish self-destructive selves and they certainly haven't learned how to f*ck with them as they should be doing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Pundits keep predicting Obama's demise, but he's not demising.

I suggest you are looking in the wrong place, and should look at the means to his re-election ends.

"Barack Obama knows how to do one thing: elect Barack Obama to public office." And he does this by reinventing the language. He and his handlers have mastered the rhetoric and everyone else is playing catch-up. The media re not even trying to catch up, they are enabling his language.

One brief example -- his deployment of the term "balance".

Anyone who survived the war in education between whole-language and phonics, remembers being told by whole-language enthusiasts that "of course we take a balanced approach." Kindergartner parents were soothed and went on their way. But what the enthusiasts meant was, "of course we believe whole-language is infinitely superior to phonics in building a more just society, but we recognize that you are getting a little nervous about your child's lack of progress in reading, therefore we will kindly do a 90-10 split: 90% of our time and energy will go into whole-language instruction, and 10% of our time will be spent on phonics."

This spring, we constantly heard Obama, Carney, Reid, Pelosi, and all the Dems claiming that unlike Republicans, they were going to take a "balanced approach to deficit reduction". Their balance was a 90-10 split, taxes to cuts.

So Obama deploys the word "balance", which like the words "equality" and "access" and "rights", compel agreement.

For Obama, "These Words are My Skill List", and it's a very impressive list.

He's not demising.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
He tried to use the Air Traffic Controllers to punish us.... I wonder how he'll use Obamacare?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The FAA air traffic controller episode was an attempted heist. Health care is a heist. Pigford was an out and out heist.

I’m sensing a pattern here.

We are going to need one heck of Cleansing of the Shire after these boys move down the road.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Speaking of one-hit wonder Obama trying to apply his Alinskyite tactics of undermining The Man...

“Some people are going to be wandering around confused because now The Man is black,” said Wanda Sykes in 2008.

Who imagined Obama himself would be among the confused?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I just listened to the president on NPR and he sounded stoned. This guy is starting to scare me. Also see the WSJ The Other Bluffer. tm Professor Reynolds, "The country is in the very best of hands".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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