Rubin Reports

As The State of the Union Speech Shows: The Problem with Obama Isn't Just Political or Ideological, It's Ignorance, Inexperience, Character, and Incompetence, Too,

I’ve been waiting for someone to voice my reaction to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union message. But and since I haven’t seen anyone else do it — I’m not referring to the foreign policy aspects which I analyzed fully here but the whole speech — I’ll do it myself.

It was very scary.

Why? I am reminded of the famous scene in The Caine Mutiny embedded above in which the captain is testifying at the court-martial of officers who removed him from command during a storm on the basis of mental incompetence. Perhaps you remember the brilliant film performance by Humphrey Bogart. As he testifies about his fine job of command, the captain slowly breaks down into coherence. He pulls out of his pocket some little steel balls which he rolls endlessly in his hand. Click. Click. Click. The court-martial officers look at each other and you can see in their faces what they are thinking: This man is bonkers.

I don’t mean that Obama is crazy. What is so evident, however, is that he is so detached from reality. Even assuming Obama’s political goals, how he goes about expressing and implementing them proves that point. The issues and the America Obama described in the speech have nothing to do with current issues and problems. The ridiculous bit with Warren Buffett’s secretary — income tax and capital gains tax are two different things — the talk about “fairness” and “teamwork,” simply don’t address what’s going on: things like the economic recovery just not happening, costs of production being too high, investors’ confidence shaken, government spending wasted to an extent far beyond what’s been seen before, and the nation’s resources misapplied in a ruinous manner.

Obama’s major speech in Kansas, an echo of one given by Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, also indicates what’s wrong with this president. It’s as if he’s half in the past — populism against the big monopolistic corporations running roughshod over a feeble government and defenseless workers — and half in the future, pushing a green utopia.

Having a president — the most powerful single man in the world — who isn’t engaged with reality is very scary.

It’s not just about politics and ideology. There are three other factors.

First, Obama doesn’t have the experience, character, or personality to be president. To put it flatly: he’s in over his head. And that might mean we are the ones who may drown. So it isn’t just having a left-wing president but a very inept one. A normal left-wing president with a hidden agenda would want to make himself and his agenda succeed as much as possible.

Second, Obama doesn’t have a very good understanding of America, its history, its system, or its institutions. We see this constantly in his attitude toward the basic governmental structures. He simply doesn’t seem, for example, to comprehend the role of Congress. Obama really thinks that Congress has no right to thwart him, and he isn’t quite sure that the Supreme Court, not him, determines what is constitutional. He has no real idea how the economic system works, including the function of the bankruptcy laws or of the private enterprise system generally. What could be more ironic than the fact that the man who is supposed to be the smartest guy around is, in functional terms, the dumbest guy around?

He was never a governor so he doesn’t know how states work or how to administer. He was never a really effective or experienced member of Congress so he doesn’t understand the legislative process. He was never a real working lawyer so he doesn’t comprehend the court system.

Third, Obama is fundamentally alien to the United States. His ostensible race is a red herring. If Obama were an “African-American” who was intimately involved in growing up in such a community there would be no such problem. In real material terms, though, he doesn’t even care for that community, from which he is also fundamentally detached, ignoring the economic suffering there. He is a Martha’s Vineyard man, not a “ghetto” man.

If not for having become entangled in the race issue, Obama’s profound incompetence — his inarticulateness, lack of knowledge about issues and processes — would be obvious to all.

The issue is also not where Obama was born. It is how his mind developed after he was born, and it did so overwhelmingly outside the system: in other countries, in ivory tower academia, in radical circles fundamentally opposed to the historic liberal-conservative political spectrum.

It is like choosing a ship’s captain at random, settling on someone who has barely been on a ship at all. You get someone who when he sees an iceberg ahead thinks only that it is no doubt melting, inconveniencing polar bears, and proving the existence of man-made global warming.

Consider how a functional liberal Democratic president would be behaving. He or Hillary would not have thrown trillions of dollars down the toilet for absolutely nothing in return. That kind of president would not sincerely believe that the economy is doing okay. That kind of president would be a political survivor — think of Bill Clinton — who would understand that he had to change course and truly move toward the center if only in order to be reelected.

Such a president would understand that even if he got all the rich-bashing tax increases he wanted, that would have no effect on an avalanching deficit. So he would acknowledge and take action on the government being too big, spending too high, and regulations too complex. And he would implement such a program out of political advantage, his own reputation, and some concern for the well-being of the country. Of course, there would be a sharp disagreement with Republicans about what and how much to change.

But at least the two sides would be on the same planet; in the same ballpark, as the saying goes. They’re not.

Obama is a disaster not only because of his politics but because he is so totally unfit to hold the office that he does. And he holds it at a moment of supreme crisis.

This is not good.