I Regret Being Obligated To Say It, But I Told You So…

You might want to get to know these guys, Mr. President: you are probably going to spend a lot of time with them in the history books.

You might want to get to know these guys, Mr. President: you are probably going to spend a lot of time with them in the history books.

(I have wrestled to the floor past urges to write a post like this, but this time, I think I have to.)

In May, I concluded a post about the “scandal trifecta” with this:

“Four years of hyperpartisan, arrogant, irresponsible, rudder-less and badly managed government have had the predictable result, and I will be stunned if we have yet seen the worst of it.”

I was not stunned, unfortunately. And we may see worse yet. We probably will.

May 2013 was far from the first time I noted the apparent vacuum of leadership in the Oval Office. Two years earlier, when the Administration was breaching security to take credit for Bin Laden’s death, I wrote, “To hell with “Hope and Change”…I’ll settle for responsibility and competence.” Of course, we have gotten neither, nor did I expect a different result even then. I didn’t expect a different result in January of 2009, to be frank. Oh, I hoped, as I think almost everyone but Rush Limbaugh and Mitch McConnell did, that Obama would prove adept at the job he had the audacity to seek.  Some Presidents with leadership credentials almost as thin as Obama’s have turned themselves into competent executives, though I suspect that those successes had the self-awareness and humility to know that they had some learning to do, as Obama does not. They also did not have a chorus of sycophants in the media and the public telling them how magical they were. It was quickly obvious, however, that President Obama’s concept of leadership was (and is) to give speeches, raise campaign funds, appoint loyalists, and sit back while they do the best job they can until they royally screw up, then express surprise and disappointment and let the same people have another crack at it.

And lie, of course. Can’t forget that.

Since May, this non-management, anti-leadership approach has brought the U.S. two or four more disasters, depending on how you count. The Syria botch continues to get people killed and embolden our enemies, particularly Iran. The NSA, we now learn, was spying on world leaders, and Obama’s head of the NSA, asked about the matter, diplomatically shrugged and said, in essence, “Yeah, and so what?” Of course, he still has his job. These embarrassments were pushed from the front pages by the ridiculous roll-out of the ACA website, which didn’t work and doesn’t work, and the realization that the President’s pledge that no one should fear his health care law because if you liked your doctors and current plan, you could keep them, was not merely a falsehood but a carefully calculated one.

And it is only 2013. There are three years to go. Obama’s approval ratings, according to some polls, are now as low as 40%. Good. That number is appropriate, and it is worse than it looks, including as it does a large sub-group which has made it very clear since 2008 that this President’s performance and demonstrated competence are irrelevant to their support of him, as long as he remains the right color. Maybe, since the White House is so poll conscious, the 40% will shock the President into doing what he had an obligation to do five years ago, and which is to try to learn how to be President. I could recommend some books, and some role models.  But this is unlikely. And it is tragic.

I was moved to post an “I told you so” by a dispiriting piece today in the reliably liberal Los Angeles Times.

“We simply cannot afford to perpetuate a system in Washington where politicians and bureaucrats make decisions behind closed doors, with little accountability for the consequences … and where outdated technology and information systems undermine efficiency, threaten our security and fail to serve an engaged citizenry.”

Pretty funny, no? Or ironic…or infuriating. President Obama, however, simply believes that it’s what you say that counts, not whether your words have any nexus, intended or otherwise, to reality. Later, the Times’ reporters quote our very own Bob Stone, a.k.a. Ethics Bob, who often comments here. Bob tells the Times…

“It’s hard to see that the president has really had any interest in actually managing the government.”

I would argue, and perhaps Bob, a good Democrat who has often found me to be too critical of Obama, might finally agree, is that this is because he doesn’t have the skills to manage, or lead. Like most of us, Barack Obama wants to stick to what he knows, and what he is good at. Unfortunately for him and us, that just isn’t good enough if you are the President of the United States.

[Note: Of my many posts about the President’s adamant refusal to learn his craft, the most recent is here. You might also—well, enjoy isn’t exactly the word, since re-reading them now make me bang my head on my desk—want to revisit here, here, here, here, here, or here.]

_______________________________

Pointer: Althouse

Source: LA Times

 

 

 

40 thoughts on “I Regret Being Obligated To Say It, But I Told You So…

  1. “Some Presidents with leadership credentials almost as thin as Obama’s have turned themselves into competent executives”
    Care to name names? I have thought about this several times (have not researched it), but I think everyone since FDR has had better credentials than Obama.
    -Jut

    • By the way, I give Eisenhower the “military pass” that Grant, Jackson, and Washington received. He DID win a war, you know.
      -Jut

      • I was going to say Pierce, but then realized he had was at least leader of a state legislature. Guess we’re down to good old Chester A. for those with less leadership experience and even then a argument can be made about whether the Custom House gave Arthur more experience.

        Ike did have leadership experience, he was lacking in a political background, something Obama actually has some of.

        • Pierce at least was a general in the army. He was always put in charge of things because of his family’s prominence, but he had no head for executive leadership, and was a weak, weak president. I cut him a break, since his child was crushed before his eyes in a horrible accident on the way to his inauguration, his wife had an emotional break-down as a result, and he may have too. He spent his four years distracted and clinically depressed, drinking heavily as the nation came apart at the seams. A tragic figure. The wrong man at the wrong time, who never really had a chance.

        • Ah… Eisenhower was actually a “political general”, applying those skills to great effect as commander in Europe, and he had developed them considerably during his rise, e.g. in his posting to Washington he took care to be elsewhere when the veterans marched on the capital, with the result that whether they were subdued by being fired on or whether they prevailed he would not be caught up in the repercussions.

    • Since FDR? Absolutely.

      Before: Truman had little leadership experience—he was a lifetime follower. Taft had very little, though more than Obama. He never really got the hang of it, but he worked at it. Arthur was a political lackey, but showed real leadership as President, much to his party’s horror. Lincoln had no executive experience at all, but was a natural leader.

      The generals like Ike, Jackson, George and Grant all had very useful experience in leadership in the army, and politics was part of it. Ike’s job running Allied operations was probably the best experience any President ever had.

      • Truman however had several years as a U.S. Senator. Granted, he had little EXECUTIVE experience, but much more FEDERAL experience than Obama. For that reason, I think he had better “credentials” to be President than Obama.
        -Jut

        • EVERY President had better credentials than Obama. Sarah Palin had better credentials than Obama. I have better credentials than Obama had.

          A Senator has no inherent leadership duties. Truman certainly displayed no leadership in the Senate. Of our Presidents with only Senate experience, Truman and LBJ—JFK maybe— are the only ones who showed any real aptitude for leadership, and LBJ was a Senate leader, in a real sense.

          • Of course, when Obama ran a second time, he had 4 years of direct experience. At that point do you admit that he had the necessary credentials. Certainly more than Palin or Romney at that point. Is the test executive leadership or EFFECTIVE executive leadership?

            • As I have pointed out, while most Presidents indicate increased adeptness at the job after a while, Obama’s learning curve appears to be flat. An argument could be made that he’s getting worse.

  2. THE MAN IN THE ARENA
    Jack,
    Whenever I get to feeling the way you seem to be feeling today, I remind myself that critics are a dime a dozen. I also reflect upon the following quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. “

    • TR, who was never shy about leveling criticism himself, would be one of the role models I would point O to. Teddy never blamed others for his failures or travails, and accountability was his watchword, along with courage. Feckless leaders like Obama, who duck responsibility, lead with a finger in the wind (but only for his “base”) and use division and obfuscation as standard tactics, are estopped from citing the “Man in the Arena” speech…it is debased by such an application.

      TR would have been disgusted by Obama.

    • We could give the man in the arena the benefit of the doubt. But Obama isn’t in the arena and he isn’t making an effort, and he isn’t striving to do anything. There can be no respect for a person who doesn’t feel the need to try.

      • I respect Rick beyond all limits, but citing TR’s speech as a shield for Obama at this point really is redolant of desperation and denial. I know Teddy Roosevelt; he is a hero of mine, and Barack Obama is no Teddy Roosevelt..

  3. Jack, off topic but I don’t wanna wait a moment longer.

    Please say your gonna write about the federal employees now suing the People because of late pay due to the shutdown. We already know public unions striking against the people is wrong. This surely is also wrong

  4. I’m too young to remember Carter, and I honestly haven’t done a lot of independent research and have just relied on what I was taught in school. Even in college history classes, all we got was a blurb about him being ineffective. I do know that perceptions are changing about him though — just as perceptions are beginning to change about Reagan. Even if Carter was an awful president (which is certainly what I was taught), ironically he is probably one of the most honest presidents that we’ve ever had. If only we could have candidates that could combine competence AND integrity.

    On a somewhat related note, are you following the story this week that Romney ditched Christie as a possible running mate over ethical concerns? I’ve only heard a few tidbits, but I wonder if this story has teeth. I thought that he would be the next candidate, odd that the Romney campaign is releasing this now don’t you think?

  5. Warren Harding was at least honest enough to admit the job was too big for him: He has been known mainly for diddling young women and the Teapot Dome scandal but signed the first federal child welfare program, dealt with striking mining and railroad workers, including supporting an 8-hour work day, and attended an unemployment rate drop by half. He actually advocated an anti-lynching bill to curb violence against African Americans although it didn’t pass. Anyway, he didn’t lie much to the American people as far as I know.

  6. As always I agree with Ethics Alarms when you quote me. You were right about Obama’s management skills. In the President’s defense I’d say he joins all recent Presidents save Clinton, going back to Nixon, which is the limit of my experience. Not much of a defense, I’ll admit–it’s a low bar.

    Where I differ from my good mentor is about leadership and the value of speech making. Obama’s gotten a lot of of important things right. I wish he had Clinton’s Clinton ‘ s approach to to managing the government, but I’m thankful that his leadership style is different from any of the post-WW II Republican Presidents.

    • That’s quite a statement, Bob. At least Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Reagan and Bush II had basic leaderships skills, and I’d say that Reagan and Johnson were extraordinary in that department. “Clinton’s approach” was called “management”—like trying to appoint competent people, watching what they did and occasionally firing the duds.Surely you can distinguish between “doing things I agree with” and “knowing how to get things done.” Too bad he was such a narcissist and a sociopath that he undid much of it and laid the seeds of the current toxic partisanship. (He ties with Nixon in my book as the biggest misuse of talent the US has ever had in the White House)

      It is pretty strange to say a leader has gotten “things right” when the government he heads has suffered a precipitous decline in prestige, trust, regard, influence, credibility, moral authority and power, both real and perceived, during his term, the debt has increased, employment has declined, the nation is more divided than any time since the Sixties, and the single major legislative initiative looks shaky at best. What would a POOR leader look like?

      • Things Obama got right:
        –Saving the world economy (shares credit with Bernanke and Hank Paulsen)
        –getting us out of the iraq morass
        –keeping us out of an even bigger tragedy in Syria
        –saving the American auto industry
        –appointing two liberal (in the right sense) Justices
        –advocating for the weakest among us.

        Not such a bad list.

        • Thanks Bob…I knew you’d come through. But…

          1. Saving the world’s economy while destroying the US economy down the road is a breach of duty.
          2. The method of leaving Iraq, so that every possible benefit of the war is forfeited or at risk with the result that the area is dangerously destabilized—is irresponsible bordering on criminal.
          3. The handling of Syria is a fiasco of epic proportions. Seriously? Keeping us out by committing us to go in and then reneging? Wow.
          4. The auto industry would have been fine, given a chance. Nationalizing an industry isn’t saving it. (Ford managed, did it not?)
          5. Partisanship isn’t an accomplishment. I think Kagan will prove to be a good appointment. Sotomayor is just affirmative action.
          6. “Advocating” isn’t leadership, or an accomplishment. It’s called lip service. The plight of minorities has worsened under Obama, lip service notwithstanding.

          I think it’s the best list possible, with stretching. Harding’s list was stronger, and after less than 4 years. (corrected from 3)

        • Let me correct this for you:

          –Benefitted from the moral luck of the economy gradually recovering (you see, Presidents don’t have that big of an effect)
          –Continuing the glide path established by President Bush, which was getting us out of the iraq morass
          –Benefitted from an incompetent Secretary of State who shot his mouth off leading to our rivals being able to look like superstars in Syria
          –postponing the inevitable collapse of the American auto industry beneath the weight of the unions
          –appointing two liberal (in the right sense) Justices (not a good thing)
          –advocating for the weakest among us (vague and non-quantifiable, every leader notionally does this, the argument is how best to effect it)

          • You mean the postponement of paying back debts owed to system that continues to drive college prices higher and higher? I know kick-the-can solutions are this administration’s preferred methods, but they don’t count as successes.

            • Ugh. You are so completely wrong on this one. Lowering interest rates on student loans is good for everyone. College prices were rising just as dramatically when I went to grad school when there was no cap. That argument just fails. Given the decline of our industrial base, higher education is the only way for mose kids to get and keep a job.

              • I should add Tex that I wish this wasn’t so. I come from a long line of successful people who never went to college, but that was a different time. It’s hard for kids to make it now without a higher education. Of course, they still have to be smart about it. I have little sympathy for all the creative writing and art history majors who are stumped over the fact that they can’t pay back their loans and are still living in daddy’s basement.

  7. I’m a little surprised that no one seems to have mentioned Lincoln. If his accomplishments have dazzled historians over the last 148 years, they weren’t dazzling much of anyone at the time he assumed office. A great many people assumed he would fail miserably and, as the nation broke apart, assumed their worst fears were being realized. That’s not the way things worked out, of course, but the doubters and nay-sayers could be forgiven if only his resume was all anyone had to go on. He failed at business at a time when the economy in the region was booming. He lost in his first run for elected office. He did serve four terms in the Illinois legislature, but many others did as well or better, and have been largely forgotten by the history books. He served a single term in the US House of Representatives. He then went on to lose in his run for the Senate. He did do well at law and, oh Lord, was he articulate, but the same can be said of the current occupant of the Oval Office and, uh, yeah…. Finally, he had absolutely no managerial experience. In short there was little enough reason, based on his record, to think he was going to be even a mildly successful President, much less a great one. But, he pulled it off and, today is one of only two Presidents to have a memorial on the National Mall, and one of only four that Borghlum memorialized on Mt. Rushmore. (The latter was perhaps a little subjective, in that it represented one man’s opinion, but he got no real argument about it.)

    • Arrgh!—I thought I had answered a comment asking about this by mentioning the three Presidents without executive experience who I showed great leadership growth: Lincoln, Arthur, and Truman. I also wrote that Lincoln was obviously a natural leader. Something happened to the post! Thanks, Karl, for bringing Abe back into the discussion.

  8. What Washington needs is adult supervision.
    I always believe that ultimately, if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership. And when we get lazy, as a democracy and civically start taking shortcuts, then it results in bad government and politics. Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded, then, is a return to these truths.
    The fact is, we are closer to achieving reform than we’ve ever been. But look, because we’re getting close, the fight is getting fierce. And the history is clear: Every time we’re in sight of reform, the special interests start fighting back with everything they’ve got. They use their influence. They run their ads. And let’s face it, they get people scared. And understandably — I understand why people are nervous. Health care is a big deal. In fact, whenever America has set about solving our toughest problems, there have always been those who’ve sought to preserve the status quo by scaring the American people. That’s what happened when FDR tried to pass Social Security — they said that was socialist. They did — verbatim. That’s what they said. They said that everybody was going to have to wear dog tags and that this was a plot for the government to keep track of everybody. When JFK and then Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare, they said this was a government takeover of health care; they were going to get between you and your doctor — the same argument that’s being made today.
    You can’t let your failures define you — you have to let your failures teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently the next time.

  9. What Washington needs is adult supervision.
    BARACK OBAMA, fundraising letter, Oct. 2006
    I always believe that ultimately, if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership. And when we get lazy, as a democracy and civically start taking shortcuts, then it results in bad government and politics.
    BARACK OBAMA, MSNBC interview, Sep. 25, 2006
    Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded, then, is a return to these truths.
    BARACK OBAMA, Inaugural Address, Jan. 20. 2009
    The fact is, we are closer to achieving (health care) reform than we’ve ever been. We have the American Nurses Association, we have the American Medical Association on board, because America’s doctors and nurses know how badly we need reform…. But look, because we’re getting close, the fight is getting fierce. And the history is clear: Every time we’re in sight of reform, the special interests start fighting back with everything they’ve got. They use their influence. They run their ads. And let’s face it, they get people scared. And understandably — I understand why people are nervous. Health care is a big deal. In fact, whenever America has set about solving our toughest problems, there have always been those who’ve sought to preserve the status quo by scaring the American people. That’s what happened when FDR tried to pass Social Security — they said that was socialist. They did — verbatim. That’s what they said. They said that everybody was going to have to wear dog tags and that this was a plot for the government to keep track of everybody. When JFK and then Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare, they said this was a government takeover of health care; they were going to get between you and your doctor — the same argument that’s being made today.
    BARACK OBAMA, town hall meeting, Aug. 15, 2009
    You can’t let your failures define you — you have to let your failures teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently the next time.
    BARACK OBAMA, National Address to America’s Schoolchildren, Sep. 8, 2009

  10. “President Obama, however, simply believes that it’s what you say that counts, not whether your words have any nexus, intended or otherwise, to reality.
    The problem is President Obama’s words sound good to many across the political and social spectrum. With a principled man who had integrity the words he speaks would mean something. When a President says something he should mean it, that he has conviction to insure that his word are not hollow. Statements such as the red line, keeping insurance policies and the like weaken the Presidency when they are shown to be just words with no substance. Most Presidents, good or bad knew this and did what they could to ensure they didn’t weaken the voice of the Oval office. A real leader would understand this, a man with no integrity doesn’t.

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