A Presidential Crisis of Competence
Less than two months into this administration, three things are clear.
First, its agenda is every bit as radical as many of us expected and feared. Based on President Barack Obama's supposedly unimportant past, there was every reason to believe that this would happen. That some Obama supporters are surprised is a "tribute" to a media elite that treated decade-plus relationships with radicals Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and others as "distractions from the real issues," and to a McCain campaign that refused to treat Obama's candidacy as the threat that it was, and now is.
Second, despite strong signals that he is guiding the ship of state in the wrong direction, Obama and his administration have largely refused to bow to reality. Having triumphed in the presidential campaign with marketing and misdirection, they actually believe that voters gave them a mandate to spend hundreds of billions of dollars we don't have, and to bail out banks, companies, and homeowners without apparent limit. While the markets continue to beg to differ, Obama has been essentially indifferent.
The third clear thing is the one that has apparently blindsided Obama fans the most, but should have been the least unexpected: He and his administration seem not to know what they're doing. Pick almost any area and you'll find a trail of incompetence that goes well beyond benign rookie mistakes.
The administration's nominee vetting record has become a national joke that could take up this entire column.
Then take the economy (please). We knew before the election that Obama doesn't understand the difference between net worth and income. His statement about "profit-to-earnings ratios" comes from that same well of ignorance.
I seem to recall John McCain being bludgeoned for a self-professed relative lack of economic expertise. McCain was mature enough to admit to it and would, as in previous GOP administrations, likely have surrounded himself with knowledgeable people. But Barack Obama has surrounded himself with the likes of tax cheat Tim Geithner, who scares the markets almost every time he opens his mouth. Meanwhile, the new Treasury secretary has somehow managed not to hire 14 key people he needs. Could it be that there is a shortage of qualified people standing in line to be participants in what is shaping up to be the mother of all train wrecks?
Obama, as president-elect, cheered as General Motors and Chrysler received taxpayer bailouts. Apparently neither the incoming nor outgoing administration considered the obvious problem that fewer consumers would buy from the two bailed-out companies either for philosophical or practical reasons (or both). That turned out to be the case in both January and February. Now GM's auditors have "raised substantial doubt about the company's ability to continue operations," while both companies beg for even more.
Meanwhile, in a laugh-so-you-won't-cry story, Geithner is heading an administration delegation that will "visit GM's technical center in Warren, Michigan, to see car and truck models and learn about the technology being developed." Uh, don't lenders usually see what's going on at the borrower's place before they cut the loan check? Even staunch Democrat Jim Cramer has been forced to conclude that "it's amateur hour at our darkest moment."
The administration's foreign policy crackups may not be as obvious just yet. But unless adult supervision arrives soon, they could prove to be even more hazardous than the dangerously declining economy.
Start with the Russia-Iran missile defense saga. Step one was the overture: "Obama ‘ready to drop shield plans for Russian help on Iran.'" Step two, the backhanded dismissal, followed shortly: "Medvedev rejects Obama missile defense deal." Step three was the blowback, as noted by Charles Krauthammer: "The Russians have dismissed it. We end up being humiliated. We look weak in front of the Iranians, and we have left the Poles and Czechs out to dry in return for nothing."
While supposedly making a point that this administration will "reset" relationships throughout the world, the secretary of state's entourage botched a Russian translation. (Those who cite the alleged decline in goodwill towards the U.S. have yet to explain why France, Canada, Germany, and other countries moved significantly to the right under Bush's watch.)
Obama recently told the New York Times that the U.S. is not winning the war in Afghanistan and was considering (in the Times' paraphrase) "reach[ing] out to moderate elements of the Taliban." The Taliban are probably already training their version of Madame Binh.
Obama infuriated the UK last week in more ways than can be counted here. Now we're supposed to believe that the UK snubs occurred because the poor guy was "too tired," the same lame excuse that was used to explain away his 10,000-died-in-Kansas gaffe during the presidential campaign.
If our president is indeed overwhelmed, don't blame the job. Obama, with no previous executive experience, appears to be falling into the same trap as Democrats Clinton and Carter before him: too obsessed with detail and failing to sufficiently delegate.
Incompetents often try to cover up their failures by attacking others and denying the obvious. This explanation would be consistent with the White House's thin-skinned blasts at CNBC's Cramer and Rick Santelli, and the president's stubborn refusal to characterize his "spread the wealth" policies as what they are: socialist.
What does such a person with real power do once their incompetence becomes self-evident to most? I'm afraid we're not that far from finding out.
One thing we do know: Obama and his peeps want to be totally in charge of health care. Feeling better now?