Belmont Club

Hitting the Snooze Button

Barbara Walters recently told Piers Morgan that she was disappointed in Barack Obama. “We thought he was going to be the next messiah”, she said.  Both host and guest were presumably crestfallen, though it is difficult to see why either was surprised, given Obama’s lack of a substantial track record.  He self-admittedly failed at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, wrote nothing either at the Harvard Law review or during his time as a law professor, voted “present” during his legislative career and even called himself a “blank screen” on which others — presumably he had Walters in mind — could project their fantasies.

And they thought he was going to be the Messiah? Why?

Peggy Noonan is also disappointed in him.  In a piece titled Incompetence she argues that not only has he proved incompetent, there are no obvious limits to his incompetence.

I would add that in recent weeks I have begun to worry about the basic competency of the administration, its ability to perform the most fundamental duties of executive management. One reason I worry is that I frequently speak with people who interact with the White House, and when I say, “That place just doesn’t seem to work,” they don’t defend it, they offer off-the-record examples of how poorly the government is run….

I’m worried, finally, that lines of traditionally assumed competence are being dropped. The past few weeks I can’t shake from my head this picture: The man with the football—the military aide who carries the U.S. nuclear codes, and who travels with the president—is carrying the wrong code. He’s carrying last month’s code, or the one from December 2012. And there’s a crisis—a series of dots on a radar screen traveling toward the continental U.S.—and the president is alerted. He’s in the holding room at a fundraiser out west. The man with the football is called in and he fumbles around in his briefcase and gets the code but wait, the date on the code is wrong. He scrambles, remembers there’s a file on his phone, but the phone ran out on the plane and he thought he could recharge in the holding room but there’s no electrical outlet. All eyes turn to him. “Wait—wait. No—uh—I don’t think that’s the code we use to launch against incoming from North Korea, I think that one takes out Paris!”

The epiphany came to her she said, as she recalled how Obama stood next to a fake sign language interpreter at Mandela’s funeral. The man later turned out not only to be a fraud but insane, and probably a murderer to boot. “If no one is keeping enough of an eye on the Secret Service” then no one is keeping an eye on the country.

David Brooks has a theory about how things have come to such a pass. He blames the rise of the Thought Leader for the delusional state of our civilization. There was a time, he said when people wanted to grow up to be astronauts or at least engineers, firemen or cops. But now they want to be gurus.

The Thought Leader is sort of a highflying, good-doing yacht-to-yacht concept peddler. Each year, he gets to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative, where successful people gather to express compassion for those not invited. Month after month, he gets to be a discussion facilitator at think tank dinners where guests talk about what it’s like to live in poverty while the wait staff glides through the room thinking bitter thoughts.

He doesn’t have students, but he does have clients. He doesn’t have dark nights of the soul, but his eyes blaze at the echo of the words “breakout session.”

These men bestride the world. Their faces are on billboards and command big bucks at every speech. You know the sort and may even have worked for one. But in fairness to the Thought Leaders, where would they be without the Thought Followers? The groupies who follow the Thought Leader around, imbuing his vague pronouncements with oracular meaning.  Who imprint his likeness on their t-shirts or who march around singing praises to his name. Who dress up in pajamas and drink chocolate in order to sell their parents on his health insurance plan.

The Thought Leaders would be flipping burgers that’s where. Or working in some low rent storefront selling snake oil to the gullible. It is the Thought Follower who makes the Thought Leader possible, just as it was the Gatekeepers who made Barack Obama president.

Brooks might be right about the deleterious effect of Thought Leaders but that is all water in the bilge now.

What happens next? Well Peggy Noonan tells us that the New York Democratic party has seen the error of its ways and is planning corrective action. They’re hoping Hillary will save them. “To the degree they ever loved the president, don’t love him anymore, and have moved on. They are not thinking about what progress he might make in Washington next year, they’re talking about what Hillary might do the year after that.”

What might she do, pray tell? What might she do?

Recently White House adviser John Podesta accused the Republican Party of being “a cult worthy of Jonestown”. Now Jim Jones was a hard-core leftist, and not a member of the Republican party, but then Abraham Lincoln was a Democrat. However Jones only persuaded 909 people to drink poisoned Kool-aid. The New York Democrats are looking forward to electing Hillary as president of what is effectively the world.

Speaking of poison Nancy Astor once told Winston Churchill that “if I were your wife, I’d put poison in your coffee,” to which Churchill replied “if I were your husband, I’d drink it.” Noonan’s observation about the NY Democrats enthusiasm for Hillary suggests that even in Jonestown some people asked for seconds.

Mark Twain once said “it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so” that gets you in trouble. But I think Twain was wrong. It’s what you know for sure but won’t admit that’s really fatal. Pass the sugar please.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with you friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.

The War of the Words for $3.99, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity for $3.99, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea $0.99, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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