Opinion: Obama shows little aptitude for governing

December 14, 2013


— In explaining the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, President Obama told Chris Matthews he had discovered that “we have these big agencies, some of which are outdated, some of which are not designed properly.”

An interesting discovery to make after having consigned the vast universe of American medicine, one-sixth of the U.S. economy, to the tender mercies of the agency bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Internal Revenue Service.

Most people become aware of the hopeless inefficiency of sclerotic government by, oh, 17 at the department of motor vehicles. Obama’s late discovery is especially remarkable considering that he built his entire political philosophy on the rock of Big Government, on the fervent belief in the state as the very engine of collective action and the ultimate source of national greatness. (Indeed, of individual success as well, as in “If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”)

This blinding revelation of the ponderous incompetence of bureaucratic government came just a few weeks after Obama confessed that “what we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.” Another light bulb goes off, this one three years after passing a law designed to force millions of Americans to shop for new health plans via the maze of untried, untested, insecure, unreliable online “exchanges.”

This discovery joins a long list that includes Obama’s rueful admission that there really are no shovel-ready jobs. That one came after having passed his monstrous $830 billion stimulus on the argument that the weakened economy would be “jump-started” by a massive infusion of shovel-ready jobs. Now known to be fictional.

Barack Obama is not just late to discover the most elementary workings of government. With alarming regularity, he professes obliviousness to the workings of his own government. He claims, for example, to have known nothing about the IRS targeting scandal, the AP phone records scandal, the NSA tapping of Angela Merkel. And had not a clue that the centerpiece of his signature legislative achievement — the online Obamacare “exchange,” three years in the making — would fail catastrophically upon launch. Or that Obamacare would cause millions of Americans to lose their private health plans.

Hence the odd spectacle of a president expressing surprise and disappointment in the federal government — as if he’s not the one running it. Hence the repeated no-one-is-more-upset-than-me posture upon deploring the nonfunctioning website, the IRS outrage, the AP intrusions and any number of scandals from which Obama tries to create safe distance by posing as an observer. He gives the impression of a man on a West Wing tour trying out the desk in the Oval Office, only to be told that he is president of the United States.

The paradox of this presidency is that this most passive bystander president is at the same time the most ideologically ambitious in decades. The sweep and scope of his health care legislation alone are unprecedented. He’s spent billions of tax money attempting to create, by fiat and ex nihilo, a new green economy. His (failed) cap-and-trade bill would have given him regulatory control of the energy economy. He wants universal preschool and has just announced his unwavering commitment to slaying the dragon of economic inequality, which, like the poor, has always been with us.

Obama’s discovery that government bureaucracies don’t do things very well creates a breathtaking disconnect between his transformative ambitions and his detachment from the job itself. How does his Olympian vision coexist with the lassitude of his actual governance, a passivity that verges on absenteeism?

What bridges that gap is rhetoric. Barack Obama is a master rhetorician. It’s allowed him to move crowds, rise inexorably and twice win the most glittering prize of all. Rhetoric has changed his reality. For Obama, it can change the country’s. Hope and change, after all, is a rhetorical device. Of the kind Obama has always imagined can move mountains.

That’s why his reaction to the Obamacare website’s crash-on-takeoff is so telling. His remedy? A cross-country campaign-style speaking tour. As if rhetoric could repeal that reality.

Managing, governing, negotiating, cajoling, crafting legislation, forging compromise. For these — this stuff of governance — Obama has shown little aptitude and even less interest. Perhaps, as Valerie Jarrett has suggested, he is simply too easily bored to invest his greatness in such mundanity.

“I don’t write code,” said Obama in reaction to the website crash. Nor is he expected to. He is, however, expected to run an administration that can.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Kent Kossoy 3 years, 11 months ago

Maybe my Jayhawk compatriots will wake up and smell the coffee. When you realize that the Income Redistribution jobs do not exist once matriculating from college, you will see what a mistake you have made putting this man in office. I was glad to see finally something in the Lawrence Bee that made some sense.

Bob Smith 3 years, 11 months ago

President Selfie sure can read from that teleprompter, though.

John Graham 3 years, 11 months ago

Come on now. Everyone knows Obama is a "grand thinker". He can't be bothered with actually doing something so mundane as governing. That would be beneath his great intellect. Everyone should recognize his greatness and fall in line without question. Any problems that arise are someone else's fault.

Julius Nolan 3 years, 11 months ago

See the Fox News junkies are online and posting the party line.

Scott Burkhart 3 years, 11 months ago

Perhaps, Julius, you would like to take a stab at defending the President and his record to date. Anyone offering an objective analysis would have to come up with a lot more failures and obfuscations than wins. At any rate, President Obama has been a tool for the Chicago political machine liberals that are pulling the strings behind the scenes. They told him to just go out, look good, and leave the rest to us. Look at his staff and advisors. Rahm Emmanuel, Ezekiel Emmanuel, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and the list continues. The biggest idiot he has working for him is the former Kansas Governor, Kathleen Sebelius.

Beator 3 years, 11 months ago

It takes a psychiatrist to see this?

Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 11 months ago

President Barrack Obama has proven himself to be a more than capable leader. He has consistantly favored conversation over confrontation. He has shown he has home training by shaking the hand of Raul Castro. If the Republicans had cooperated instead of rejecting every thing he proposed the country would be in a good place.

We got out of Iraq, we are getting out of Afghanistan and there is no reason why Gitmo cannot be closed. The desire for individual glory has created infighting among the security agencies who refuse to share information to achieve a common goal. Do they know they are supposed to be protecting America or do they view it as just another video game where they want to get more points than the other guy?

Beator 3 years, 11 months ago

It could be the Psychiatrist did not consider Obama's selfie attributes while considering his aptitude for governing?

"President Obama’s flirting with Denmark’s prime minister would be shameful on any occasion. That it happened at the memorial for Nelson Mandela only adds to the embarrassment. But the “selfie” episode also symbolizes the greater global calamity of Western decline. With British prime minister David Cameron playing the role of Obama’s giggling wingman, the “look at me” moment confirms we have unserious leaders in a dangerously serious time."


Leslie Swearingen 3 years, 11 months ago

The behavior is totally appropiate. There was singing, dancing, and laughing; the people were giving Nelson Mandala a grand send off. It is their way. I would bet that picture taking was going on among many in the crowd. It is just what people do under those circumstances. I doubt very much that President Obama was flirting. Look up the meaning of wingman, that does not fit this situation. As heads of state whoever made up the seating chart seating them in this manner.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 11 months ago

GOP Brings Economic Nightmares

CK is a member of the ALEC Right Wing Party 24/7 Character Assassination Platform. Truth is irrelevant. Damage is the objective.

Why Did The GOP Deliberately Crash The Economy? http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jun/09/did-republicans-deliberately-crash-us-economy

Debunked The Harvard Study That The GOP Used to Push Austerity http://tv.msnbc.com/2013/04/24/debunked-the-harvard-study-that-republicans-used-to-push-austerity/

--- Reagan/Bush Home Loan Fraud Fiasco by way of the Savings and Loan Industry

--- GW Bush Lied About WMD's In Iraq thus expanding the war for oil control which began under Reagan/Bush and is now 33 years old and thousands of dead USA soldiers.

Shall we talk destructive government?

Beator 3 years, 11 months ago

And this has what to do with the article by the Psychiatrist? I wonder why this news paper allows your ideological propaganda to be posted year after year after year after year after year and delete others that even hint of a different ideology?

Lucky you.

Bob Smith 3 years, 11 months ago

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John Graham 3 years, 11 months ago

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