Unexamined Premises

Is Obama Too Smart for the Presidency, or Is It Too Tough for Him?

No job too tough

No job too tough

From Peggy Noonan’s column in the Wall Street Journal today:

But he seems increasingly passive. He is not passive when it comes to his political fortunes—he goes out and speaks and tries to rally the base—but even there, and certainly when it comes to governing, he seems bored, as if operating at a remove. Valerie Jarrett was once quoted saying he’s so exceptionally gifted that he’s been bored most of his life. It seems to me more likely an exceptionally gifted person would be exceptionally interested in and alive to the wonder and drama of things. I think her meaning was that only the most demanding and important of jobs would consistently arouse his engagement and focus. But he seems pretty bored as president…

The aspect of the presidency he seems to enjoy most is the perks—the splashy vacations, the planes, the hoops, the golf. When his presidency is over there will be the perks of the post-presidency—foundations, libraries, million-dollar speeches, staff, protection. A literary agent estimated he’ll get up to $20 million for his memoirs, Michelle Obama perhaps $12 million. So no, you don’t get the impression he’ll have to suffer for where he stands, or who he is.

Jarrett’s observation about the man who is, at least nominally, her boss has received a lot of attention since its appearance in David Remnick’s biography of Obama, The Bridge. And it certainly fits right in with the media-fueled notion that the Pride of Punahou is intellectually brilliant — a judgment not shared, by the way, by Obama’s fellow students at Harvard Law, who created the “Obamamometer” to measure his epic-scale apple-polishing. As some idiot wrote over at National Review Online a few years back:

So the other day, I was having lunch on the patio at Orso’s with a fellow screenwriter, and as we watched all the suits making deals that didn’t include us, all the actresses who aren’t going to be in our movies, and all the agents who won’t return our phone calls, this writer leaned over to me and whispered, “Have you heard about the Obamamometer?”

I won’t keep you in suspense. Turns out that this writer knows someone who knows someone who knows someone who went to Harvard Law with B. Hussein Obama Jr., and, the story goes, such was Barry’s monumental capacity for sucking up to his professors that the “Obamamometer” was established to calibrate and quantify the most egregious, shameless brown-nosing, and it quickly became the gold standard of Uriah Heep-dom in Cambridge, Mass. “That was a 10 on the Obamamometer,” the Harvard men and women would whisper when someone rose to the unctuous level of Barry at his best. Who knows, maybe they still do.

Still,  in the words of historian Michael Beschloss, Obama’s the “smartest guy ever to become president” — words that, no doubt, Beschloss would like to eat right about now:

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But is there any evidence that Obama is smart? He’s never released any of his transcripts, and we still have no idea on what basis he was admitted to Occidental, Columbia and Harvard. Further, if he were as smart as his fawning admirers in academe and the media would have us believe, wouldn’t his performance as president reflect that? To take even the simplest thing, his ability (or lack of it) to speak extemporaneously is almost nil, except in the crudest colloquial way:

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Further, significant doubts have been raised about his authorship of his memoir, Dreams from My Father, so many that Jack Cashill — who believes that the work was ghost-written by former terrorist Bill Ayers — wrote a whole book about it.

Finally, and most telling, is the hash Obama has made of everything he’s ever touched, including his work as a “community organizer” — a job for which there is no demand, no salary, no economic benefit and no metric of success; be sure to click on the link to see the kind of future that results from the  ministrations of men like Obama. Aside from employing the titanic disaster of his “signature achievement,” Obamacare, as a cudgel with which to beat his political opponents, Barry seems to take next to no interest in the actual workings of his policies. As my former Time magazine colleague Margaret Carlson (a liberal) wrote in her Bloomberg column last fall:

A chief executive less bored than Obama would have stayed on top of his signature legislation. Those upset that he didn’t are bedwetters, the White House says, nervous Nellies who can’t comprehend the larger picture of health-care reform that will, in due time, emerge. White House spokesman Jay Carney intones the mantra that the president “is focused on delivering the access to quality and affordable health insurance” and isn’t concerned “about the politics of that.”

The mechanics weren’t as promised. In August, many of the elements needed for HealthCare.gov to function were deemed not ready by the chief contractor, CGI Group Inc., a company hired by the administration despite a poor performance record. As of August, almost nothing worked as promised: Computer systems at the multiple government agencies involved were unable to talk to one another, code was plagued with errors, and the system couldn’t handle even 500 users at a time. What’s more, no one had tended to the even more complicated financial and accounting part of the insurance exchanges.

None of this was enough to rouse the intellectually restless president’s attention. After the Oct. 1 rollout, he seemed as surprised as your average citizen that the exchanges weren’t working. He keeps suggesting the failure should be mitigated by the fact that his opponents were wishing for it. It took him six weeks to apologize…

Such lassitude is hardly the hallmark of a brilliant man. Not that the Left really cares; to them, the myth of Obama’s brilliance was simply another arrow in the campaign quiver; for them, Obama was the Dream Candidate, a fact probably best articulated — without a trace of self-awareness — by Joe Biden when he outrageously said —

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— and paid absolutely no price for doing so. In fact, he was rewarded with the pitcher of warm spit called the vice presidency. That’s a storybook, man.

As Noonan notes, really smart people are full of energy; they take on multiple tasks, always posing themselves new challenges. Even late in life, they write books, learn another language, take up the cello, climb Machu Picchu. What they don’t do is sit around in their residences watching sports on television and complaining that they’re bored, or that the job isn’t up to their level of ability to execute it. If Jarrett’s assessment of Obama is correct — and it almost certainly is not — then the presidency itself is beneath the dignity of the man, who therefore must busy himself with the things that really interest him: parties, golfing, relaxing, taking vacations and campaigning, all of which entail spending other people’s money on the way to enriching himself, post-presidency.

This is what the electorate gets for having entrusted the highest office in the land to a man who viewed it as an entry-level gig on the way to something better or more interesting. And if Obama has this attitude toward the White House, what must he think of the people who put him there?

Prexy to Country: Drop Dead

Let me be perfectly clear

Says it all.