Ill Equipped For Battle
by Deacon Blues
How much of a president's effectiveness, or lack thereof, is a result of his inate ability, and how much is a result of his skill in picking the people around him? It's a valid question as Barack Obama, by all accounts a very bright man, has lost his way economically and finds himself unable to effectively comunicate with the country or deal with Congress.
George W. Bush will never be credited with being an intellectual, but he was clearly politically smarter and more astute in assembling a White House political team. Yes, they were on the ropes on September 10, 2001, but they were able to take full political advantage of a national disaster partially of their own making to manhandle Congress and buffalo the American people for years before the truth was revealed after Katrina. Bush and Andy Card were bereft of good policy ideas and the team were truly Mayberry Machiavellis, but Card and his team whipped Congress into line while Karl Rove made sure the White House was a political operation 24/7.
Compare that to what Barack Obama has done. Like Bush, Obama had a national disaster, this time an economic one, afflict his tenure, and even a subsequent environmental one (Deepwater Horizon) happen on his watch. Yet Obama has been unable and unwilling to mirror what Bush and his team did in the aftermath of 9/11, nor has Obama's political team shown a fraction of the skill of Bush's team. Both Rahm Emanuel and now Bill Daley have proven to be politically clueless in dealing with today's GOP, nor able to foster an effective relationship with House and Senate Democrats. In this environment, a political general is needed who knows how to wage war against opponents while building coalitions of allies. Both Emanuel and now Daley failed that test, but is the problem at the top?
Obama practically ran away from seizing opportunity in the aftermath of the carnage Wall Street brought upon the country, and instead was too deferential to both the Street and we now know the intelligence and defense communities. Obama has been tone deaf on jobs and AWOL in dealing with the home foreclosure crisis. Letting more than year go by before getting a weak-tea financial reform bill from Congress, pivoting away from a concern about jobs in late 2009, and letting your Treasury Secretary protect the banks speaks volumes about the man's priorities, and that was before watching the Deepwater Horizon debacle. And we can all write paragraphs about Obama's focus on compromise and collaboration with a GOP opposition openly fixated upon his demise. But when you are convinced by your own but inadequate Mayberry Macchiavellis that you are blessed with knowing what's right for the country and will be rewarded eventually for that wisdom, you can miss the dysfunction and growing political problems right under your nose that aren't being addressed by your staff, who are less than capable at merging governing with politics.
Can Obama turn this around? Sure, but before that can happen, the man himself has to accept how wrong he's been and be ready to adjust in both his philosophy and his choices of personnel. Is that likely?