Ed Driscoll

The Wonk Who Wasn't There

Karl Rove makes mincemeat of Obama’s self-assessment that he’s some sort of policy wonk. I started to add this as an update to the previous “Betelgeuse!” post, but I think it’s worth breaking out separately:


“President Obama has himself backwards,” Rove says. “His problem is not that he was a policy wonk: it’s that he wasn’t.  He refused to get his hands dirty writing a good stimulus bill, drafting bipartisan health-care reform, or negotiating with Republicans.  He found it easier to tell them ‘I won, so get lost.’”

“The president is comfortable with a technocratic approach because he is an imperious, arrogant, know-it-all left wing technocrat who leaves the details to his congressional Democratic allies, like Congressman Dave Obey with the stimulus bill,” Rove adds. “He is content to check the box on his list of achievements and tour the country with his teleprompter giving speeches.”

And Obama’s aides disagree also:

“Enough was enough, [White House chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel decided. … He summoned the two competing super-egos, [economic adviser Larry] Summers and [budget director Peter] Orszag, and told them to make peace. After all, they were each responsible for huge swaths of the federal government. And they were fighting at every turn. After a bit of delicate negotiations, it was decided that they’d meet once a week for dinner and see how it worked. So, that night, Orszag settled into a white-clothed table at the Bombay Club, a posh Indian restaurant across Lafayette Park, a favorite of lobbyists and White House officials.

“Summers walked in, slightly late, but not impolitely so, and met Orszag at the table. And then it was the two of them. Orszag hoped that this time the White House would be less fraught with strife than the last go-round during the 1990s. Summers said it kind of came with the territory. This talk of their shared history seemed to thaw things out. They both grabbed for the plate of flatbreads … and tore corners at the discus-sized breads. ‘You know, Peter, we’re really home alone.’ Over the past few months, Summers had said this, in a stage whisper, to Orszag and others as they left the morning economic briefings in the Oval Office. … ‘I mean it,’ Summers stressed. ‘We’re home alone. There’s no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes.'”


As one of the commenters at the Brothers Judd blog notes, the Home Alone analogy cuts both ways — Summers is admitting that there are no grown-ups in the Obadministration, and inadvertently including himself amongst the small-fry.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member