Peggy Noonan on “Amateurish” ObamaNovember 28, 2009
You can read her Wall Street Journal piece here. She makes an interesting point about iconic photos; Carter’s always seemed to look worried, from what I recall, but Reagan’s were either smiling broadly or stern, no-nonsense. (Mostly smiling.) This President seems to work hard to not be Presidential. He doesn’t understand that the people who elected him still want him to be that way – but to do so while carrying out their beliefs as policy. He should not be trying so hard to be the anti-President.
I think that underneath Barack Obama is not nearly as confident as he want to appear. I don’t think he’s the puppet that some people believe him to be – I hope he isn’t! – but I don’t see him as having a firm grasp on the issues. I think he’s as out of his element in international politics as he is in domestic economics. He may have a handle on legal matters – he seems to have found all sorts of ways to enact policy without getting Congress to do much. Beyond that, he’s out of his league more than John F. Kennedy was, early on in his term.
I have read it several times over the years that if JFK had served out his first term, or even been reelected to a second one, a lot of things would have unraveled. He was a good figurehead but not very good on policy. His Cabinet, which was supposed to be a “dream team” of sorts, soon demonstrated that it fell far short of expectations. Don’t get me started on McNamara!
And, unfortunately, Obama is no JFK. He doesn’t have the quality of brain trust Kennedy had around him, and they weren’t enough. Noonan makes a good point that Washington is lacking in “wise old men.” And why not? They have been vilified for years. No one of any stature wants to put up with the kind of muckraking that passes for the press today. Stay in private practice and stay out of the limelight. And the money isn’t very good.
One of Carter’s main problems that I can recall is that he was a lousy judge of people. Case in point: Bert Lance. As President, you have to pick wise men (and women) to give you good advice. Carter didn’t. Reagan did. The Bushes generally did. Clinton had some – he was more done in by his own ego. A lot has been said of Obama’s “Chicago connections.” It’s not so much that he only hires shady characters he knew from Chicago. It’s more that, working in that environment, you tend to believe that’s how business should be transacted everywhere. That’s why the SEIU leadership – especially Andy Stern – seem to have a key to the White House. In Chicago the government and the unions have been connected for generations. Lots of Americans don’t like that kind of relationship. Even a lot of people in Chicagoland don’t like that relationship! For someone who said lobbyists wouldn’t have access to his administration, there sure are a lot of them that are tight with Obama.
Unfortunately for us this is a man out of his league. People were all excited about “hope and change,” and an “historic Presidency,” instead of finding someone who was competent to run the country. And now we are paying for it. And paying for it. And paying for it.