In 2008, when Barack Obama was advancing on the presidency by means of successfully turning himself into the year’s most popular fashion statement, the fact was occasionally remarked that Barack Obama had made his persona into a mirror which was reflecting back precisely the images his audience wanted to see, the real Obama remained an invisible enigma.
Barack Obama managed to be elected presidency, occupied the White House for four years of economic misery while magically evading responsibility for the non-recovery, and was even, astonishingly, re-elected, while remaining essentially defined by the wishful fantasies of an admiring public.
Ironically, it seems that it was Barack Obama’s signature achievement, Obamacare, the long-elusive goal of left-wing dreams which would transform America, once and for all, into a European-style Welfare State, which proved to be his nemesis, his Hurricane Katrina, the touchstone of demonstrable performance which dispelled all the illusions and defined the real Obama. And his definition, as Peggy Noonan noted yesterday, is: incompetent.
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, â€œThat place just doesnâ€™t seem to work,â€ they donâ€™t defend it, they offer off-the-record examples of how poorly the government is run. …
It all looks so lax, so loosey-goosey. In the place of the energy and focus that would go into the running of things, the administering and managing of them, we have the preoccupation with spin, with how things look as opposed to how they are. The odd thing still is that the White House never misses a speech, a list of talking points, an opportunity to shape the argument on TV. They do the talking part, but the doing? They had 3Â½ years to make sure ObamaCare will work, three years to get it right top to bottom, to rejigger parts of the law that they finally judged wouldnâ€™t work, to make the buying of a policy easy on the website. And they not only couldnâ€™t do that, which itself constitutes an astounding and historic management failure, they make it clear they were taken aback by their failure. They didnâ€™t know it was coming! Or some knew and for some reason couldnâ€™t do anything.
And itâ€™s all going to continue. One reason this scandal isnâ€™t Katrina is that Katrina had a beginning and an end. The storm came, the storm left, the cleanup commenced and failed and then continued and succeeded. At some point it was over. ObamaCare will never be over. Itâ€™s going to poison the rest of the administration. Itâ€™s the story that wonâ€™t go away because it will continue to produce disorder. Wait, for instance, until small businesses realize it will be cheaper to throw their people off their coverage and take the fines than it will be to reinsure them under the new regime.
Iâ€™m worried, finally, that lines of traditionally assumed competence are being dropped. The past few weeks I canâ€™t shake from my head this picture: The man with the footballâ€”the military aide who carries the U.S. nuclear codes, and who travels with the presidentâ€”is carrying the wrong code. Heâ€™s carrying last monthâ€™s code, or the one from December 2012. And thereâ€™s a crisisâ€”a series of dots on a radar screen traveling toward the continental U.S.â€”and the president is alerted. Heâ€™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 thereâ€™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 thereâ€™s no electrical outlet. All eyes turn to him. â€œWaitâ€”wait. Noâ€”uhâ€”I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s the code we use to launch against incoming from North Korea, I think that one takes out Paris!â€
I have to say, Iâ€™ve never worried about this with any previous administration, ever.
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Recognizing back in 2008 that Barack Obama was nothing but an Illinois state senator with no record of meaningful accomplishment whatsoever beyond (perhaps) writing his own autobiography at age 30, and $2.99, would get you a cup of coffee.