Friday, May 28, 2010
Peggy Noonan on Obama's Unforced Errors
Noonan in today's WSJ:
"I don't see how the president's position and popularity can survive the oil spill. This is his third political disaster in his first 18 months in office. And they were all, as they say, unforced errors, meaning they were shaped by the president's political judgment and instincts.
"There was the tearing and unnecessary war over his health-care proposal and its cost. There was his day-to-day indifference to the views and hopes of the majority of voters regarding illegal immigration. And now the past almost 40 days of dodging and dithering in the face of an environmental calamity. I don't see how you politically survive this.
"The president, in my view, continues to govern in a way that suggests he is chronically detached from the central and immediate concerns of his countrymen. This is a terrible thing to see in a political figure, and a startling thing in one who won so handily and shrewdly in 2008. But he has not, almost from the day he was inaugurated, been in sync with the center. The heart of the country is thinking each day about A, B and C, and he is thinking about X, Y and Z. They're in one reality, he's in another."
"The original sin in my view is that as soon as the oil rig accident happened the president tried to maintain distance between the gusher and his presidency. He wanted people to associate the disaster with BP and not him. When your most creative thoughts in the middle of a disaster revolve around protecting your position, you are summoning trouble. When you try to dodge ownership of a problem, when you try to hide from responsibility, life will give you ownership and responsibility the hard way. In any case, the strategy was always a little mad. Americans would never think an international petroleum company based in London would worry as much about American shores and wildlife as, say, Americans would. They were never going to blame only BP, or trust it."
Noonan says Katrina,"illustrate[s] that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. Conservatives got this point—they know it without being told—but liberals and progressives did not. They thought Katrina was the result only of George W. Bush's incompetence and conservatives' failure to "believe in government." But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent."
One could wish that Noonan could also look at her own unforced error: she failed to look critically at the information about Obama that was available to anyone who could use Google. If she had looked him over then she might have realized that there was nothing in the record to suggest the canard of competence. She would have seen that here is a man who has seldom done anything or accomplished anything beyond getting his ticket punched and grabbing the next higher spot. He has never demonstrated competence at anything besides ambitious and ceaseless movement. He has never stayed in one spot or position long enough to accomplish much of anything. He has tried desperately to control all the information available about himself. Maybe if Peggy had come face to face with his many attempts to control information she would have been as skeptical then as she is finally becoming. The canard of competence would not have ever taken hold if members of the media had demonstrated a minimal level of competence in their job performance.