He Was Supposed To Be Competent

Joining the ranks of “The Ragin’ Cajun” aka James Carville, bribe taking Senator Mary Landrieu, Chris “thrill up my leg” Matthews,  and other Obamatrons who have recently jumped off his bandwagon and began openly criticizing his amateurishly slow response to the worst oil spill in our Nation’s history,  Peggy Noonan adds her voice to the ever growing list of  folks who originally supported “The Bama”, but are now speaking out against him and finally admitting what we knew all along, that he would be in way over his head if elected.

He Was Supposed to Be Competent

 By Peggy Noonan

noonan0529

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 American people have spent at least two years worrying that high government spending would, in the end, undo the republic. They saw the dollars gushing night and day, and worried that while everything looked the same on the surface, our position was eroding. They have worried about a border that is in some places functionally and of course illegally open, that it too is gushing night and day with problems that states, cities and towns there cannot solve.

And now we have a videotape metaphor for all the public’s fears: that clip we see every day, on every news show, of the well gushing black oil into the Gulf of Mexico and toward our shore. You actually don’t get deadlier as a metaphor for the moment than that, the monster that lives deep beneath the sea.

In his news conference Thursday, President Obama made his position no better. He attempted to act out passionate engagement through the use of heightened language—”catastrophe,” etc.—but repeatedly took refuge in factual minutiae. His staff probably thought this demonstrated his command of even the most obscure facts. Instead it made him seem like someone who won’t see the big picture. The unspoken mantra in his head must have been, “I will not be defensive, I will not give them a resentful soundbite.” But his strategic problem was that he’d already lost the battle. If the well was plugged tomorrow, the damage will already have been done.

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.

I wonder if the president knows what a disaster this is not only for him but for his political assumptions. His philosophy is that it is appropriate for the federal government to occupy a more burly, significant and powerful place in America—confronting its problems of need, injustice, inequality. But in a way, and inevitably, this is always boiled down to a promise: “Trust us here in Washington, we will prove worthy of your trust.” Then the oil spill came and government could not do the job, could not meet need, in fact seemed faraway and incapable: “We pay so much for the government and it can’t cap an undersea oil well!”

This is what happened with Katrina, and Katrina did at least two big things politically. The first was draw together everything people didn’t like about the Bush administration, everything it didn’t like about two wars and high spending and illegal immigration, and brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bushism. The second was illustrate 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.

Remarkable too is the way both BP and the government, 40 days in, continue to act shocked, shocked that an accident like this could have happened. If you’re drilling for oil in the deep sea, of course something terrible can happen, so you have a plan on what to do when it does.

How could there not have been a plan? How could it all be so ad hoc, so inadequate, so embarrassing? We’re plugging it now with tires, mud and golf balls?

What continues to fascinate me is Mr. Obama’s standing with Democrats. They don’t love him. Half the party voted for Hillary Clinton, and her people have never fully reconciled themselves to him. But he is what they have. They are invested in him. In time—after the 2010 elections go badly—they are going to start to peel off. The political operative James Carville, the most vocal and influential of the president’s Gulf critics, signaled to Democrats this week that they can start to peel off. He did it through the passion of his denunciations.

The disaster in the Gulf may well spell the political end of the president and his administration, and that is no cause for joy. It’s not good to have a president in this position—weakened, polarizing and lacking broad public support—less than halfway through his term. That it is his fault is no comfort. It is not good for the stability of the world, or its safety, that the leader of “the indispensble nation” be so weakened. I never until the past 10 years understood the almost moral imperative that an American president maintain a high standing in the eyes of his countrymen.

Mr. Obama himself, when running for president, made much of Bush administration distraction and detachment during Katrina. Now the Republican Party will, understandably, go to town on Mr. Obama’s having gone only once to the gulf, and the fund-raiser in San Francisco that seemed to take precedence, and the EPA chief who went to a New York fund-raiser in the middle of the disaster.

But Republicans should beware, and even mute their mischief. We’re in the middle of an actual disaster. When they win back the presidency, they’ll probably get the big California earthquake. And they’ll probably blow it. Because, ironically enough, of a hard core of truth within their own philosophy: when you ask a government far away in Washington to handle everything, it will handle nothing well.

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17 Responses to He Was Supposed To Be Competent

  1. polarbear20 says:

    “He was supposed to be competent”

    Give me a break, if one’s competency rests on how they handle an underwater oil leak, we live in an incompetent world. Did President Obama’s response leave more to be desired, yes. Was it as bad as G. Walker Bush’s response to Katrina? Not a chance.

    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.

    Now that’s just pulling stuff out of your ass. There is no Obama Petroleum, President Gasman was George Bush. Of course this is BP’s disaster.

    And maybe if we didn’t have eight years of big oil and the oval office almost being one in the same, an expansion of off shore drilling and ineffective safety regulations we wouldn’t have this problem. It’s not on Obama. Obama never chanted “drill baby drill”.

  2. therealgirlscout says:

    You took the words right out of my mouth, polarbear. Doesn’t even compare to the slower than slow reaction of Bush to the Katrina disaster. Actually, I’m surprised that republicans would even mention this, for fear of us bringing up the Bush-Katrina fiasco in comparison.

    • hybridtalk1 says:

      Looks like in political wars, the first casualty is the truth. FEMA wanted to enter New Orleans right away but “School bus” Nagan, the mayor of NO told them not to bother. He was going to take care of all his constituents. He learned his lesson though, as you may recall. Last year he told everyone in NO that if a hurricane hit again, everyone was responsible for themselves and they should not count on local or state government to help. Lesson learned, Liberal government can’t do it all for everyone.

      After five days the mayor and other Liberal democrat leaders changed their minds and demanded FEMA come to their aid, and FEMA did. Now, compare that to ObamaLand. Obama has done nothing but blame Bush, point fingers at BP and others, stonewalled Governor Jindal’s efforts to act. Oh, and Obama has been on two vacations during the 44 days of the Gulf oil crisis and his Cabinet members who should have been on the job were vacationing too. After 44 days, Obamaland has done nothing that would help the situation.

  3. Hacksaw says:

    It appears that I’ve touched on a sore spot for liberals who made a living out of hating George W. Bush & blaming Hurricane Katrina & the government’s perceived slow response solely on him, despite the presence of incompetent Democrats in the Louisiana Governor’s mansion & as the New Orleans Mayor at the time. Fortunately for New York, Rudy Giuliani really knew how to lead and effectively perform in the event of a catastrophe, or the attacks on 9/11 would’ve had a much worse effect on the city.

    What you all don’t want to admit is that this oil spill is truly Obama’s “Katrina”, with the same slow, ill-prepared government response that Bush was faulted for, but “W” didn’t have the benefit of an example to follow, nor did he take to a stage and scream “Never again!” about the federal government being caught unprepared for a monumental disaster like this.

    Although Bush did declare a state of emergency in Louisiana, Alabama, & Mississippi a full 2 days before Katrina made landfall and he was touring disaster sites within 3 days of the hurricane, he got crucified while President Obama waited about a month (while finding time to golf, go to numerous fundraisers, stir up racial tensions over a law that he & most of his senior advisors failed to read), aid a rude guest (Mexican President Calderon)in hypocritically critiquing this country & it’s laws, yuk it up at the WH Correspondent’s dinner, and host several championship teams at the White House, to finally go to Louisiana and see firsthand the effects of the worst oil spill in this country’s history.

    • therealgirlscout says:

      W didn’t have an example to follow? Have no other hurricanes devasted our coastlines? What example did Obama have to follow? When was the last time an oil rig blew up in the Gulf, killing 11 people and spewing millions of gallons of oil into the ocean?

    • polarbear20 says:

      A sore spot, no. Actually I’m more surprised that you brought this up, seeing how Republicans should be trying to rewrite history now, so maybe history will have a slightly more favorable view of Dubya. Not remind everyone of his fuckups. Before I got to that part, I was gonna mention Katrina for the fact it’s ridiculous someone who praised Dubya so much and tried to downplay Katrina is now talking about competency.

  4. Princess says:

    But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent. key word was “supposed” to be.
    sadly, the 52% of our countrymen actually “believed” (damn there’s that WORD again) all the hype about how intelligent & capable he supposedly was.
    but of course, they IGNORED all the inexperience & baloney.
    and hack? you are correct. the “messiah” is sinking fast…………..and it’s killing the die hard “believers” (again, that WORD).
    according to the libs, katrina was defining moment of President Bush’s presidency. No matter what OTHER great things he had done, it always went back to Katrina and how bad Bush was.
    but try as they may to deflect the incompetence of the “one” people are seeing it as plain as the nose on their faces.

    • polarbear20 says:

      sadly, the 52% of our countrymen actually “believed” all the hype about how intelligent & capable he supposedly was.

      Oh my, 52% of the people believed a Harvard educated lawyer was intelligent, what a bunch of morons!!! Yeah, unlike the people who BELIEVE (damn, there’s that word again!!) in a space god, which has no proof or evidence of its existence. If you’re gonna call yourself a christen, be careful who you criticize for believing. 😉

      but of course, they IGNORED all the inexperience & baloney.

      Just like the GOP ignores all the ‘inexperience and baloney’ of that Barbie doll from Alaska.

      according to the libs, katrina was defining moment of President Bush’s presidency. No matter what OTHER great things he had done, it always went back to Katrina and how bad Bush was.

      Not exactly, for me my “Bush defining moment” is more like a montage of clips. Also included are Dubya sitting for SEVEN MINUTES when the country is under attack, declaring “Mission Accomplished”, standing in a pile of debris in NYC like a jackass acting like a tough guy.

      I’d have to say Obama’s defining moment is either getting SOME health care reform passed despite the dead weight of the right wing, overturning DADT and DOW climbing above 10,000.

  5. therealgirlscout says:

    No matter how many things Bush did, it always goes back to Katrina? Well, if the shoe fits…..when republicans attack Obama for the oil spill, then the obvious comparison is Bush’s reaction to Katrina. Simple as that. Just like princess always goes back to “the one”, “obamatrons”, the “messiah”, etc. If I’ve heard those terms once, I’ve heard them a million times!

  6. myfoxmystere says:

    Let me put this simply in the words of a walrus, penguin, and an incompetent professor:

    Chumly: “Duh-gee Tennessee, what are we going to do now?”

    Tennessee Tuxedo: “Don’t worry Chumly! Tennessee Tuxedo WILL NOT FAIL! We’re going to see Mr. Whoopie!” (goes to seek advice)

    “Mr. Whoopie, we have a big problem! You see, we drilled into a pipe, and sprung a huge oil leak! What do we do about it?”

    Mr. Whoopie: “Uh, you plug the leak, and that should solve the problem!”

    Now why can’t 0bama put a plug in it? Do you know what happens in the next episode? Or do I need to write the teaser to it? (Hee Hee!)

  7. Hacksaw says:

    W didn’t have an example to follow? Have no other hurricanes devasted our coastlines? What example did Obama have to follow? When was the last time an oil rig blew up in the Gulf, killing 11 people and spewing millions of gallons of oil into the ocean?

    Obama had the example Hurricane Katrina & it’s aftermath in which a natural disaster devastated the gulf coast States and the perceived slow governmental response, and the political price that the President paid for it. The “Naked Emperor” himself even criticized George Bush for Katrina in a speech in Louisiana and shouted “Never Again!” Is it just me, or does everyone find that oddly similar to President Bush on the USS Abraham Lincoln under the “Mission Accomplished” banner?

    Despite all this, and after the worst oil spill in our country’s history, Barry found the time to smoke, stir up racial tensions over a law that he & most of his senior advisors failed to read, play basketball, yuk it up at the WH Correspondent’s dinner, host Mexican President Calderon at the White House and embarrass the Nation by kissing his ass, go to numerous fundraisers, host several championship teams at the White House, attend several commencement ceremonies, and play golf a bunch of times before he found it necessary to finally go to Louisiana and personally witness the oil washing ashore.

  8. Hacksaw says:

    Not exactly, for me my “Bush defining moment” is more like a montage of clips. Also included are Dubya sitting for SEVEN MINUTES when the country is under attack, declaring “Mission Accomplished”, standing in a pile of debris in NYC like a jackass acting like a tough guy.

    Please explain to me exactly what President George W. Bush could’ve accomplished had he left that classroom immediately after having been informed of the still occurring attacks on 09/11/01, as opposed to finishing his visit with the grade school children….no Bush critic that I have ever asked this question has been able to so far….

    I’d have to say Obama’s defining moment is either getting SOME health care reform passed despite the dead weight of the right wing, overturning DADT and DOW climbing above 10,000.

    I can’t believe you’re actually bragging about the healthcare law, and the fact that the Democrats had to pull out all the stops in order to pass it. Despite Democratic control of House & a near filibuster proof majority in the Senate, they still had to lie about the true cost and publically bribe several Democrats (people are currently in prison for doing the exact same thing) in order to gain enough votes to pass the bill, even though a larger majority than the one that elected President Obama opposed the bill, which is now a law.

    This belligerent slap in the face to the majority of the American public, along with the desperate, sudden push to vote on other unpopular social legislation that the public does not want is the epitome of abuse of power, and along with the high unemployment rate with no attention or solutions from the government will cost many politicians their seats in Congress, as well as the Democrats control of the House of Representatives and possibly even the Senate, inshallah!

  9. Princess says:

    Please explain to me exactly what President George W. Bush could’ve accomplished had he left that classroom immediately after having been informed of the still occurring attacks on 09/11/01, as opposed to finishing his visit with the grade school children….
    now come on hack, you KNOW there won’t be any answer to that question…..or at least not one that actually makes SENSE. LMAO
    crash & burn is coming quickly for the “one” and his minions………….it’s already happening……..can’t wait to see the wreckage LMAO

  10. mzkatie says:

    You’re all running in circles with your heads cut off right now. It’s amusing.

    9/11. Hurricane Katrina. Gulf Oil Spill. All are tragedies.

    Did anyone on this site know how immensely horrific the sites of 9/11 were right away? Did anyone know exactly the number of lives that would be lost? Did you know how big the mess was right away?

    After Katrina, did you know exactly how devastated our people were down south? Did you know how colossal the chaos left behind from Katrina was immediately?

    When you heard about the spill in the Gulf, did you know that it would still be leaking to this day? Did you know that BP did not have a back-up plan, like at all? Did you know that this spill would be the worst in our history?

    Bush & Obama may be presidents of this country, but they are not gods. Underestimating is not always convenient, but it is human. We do expect more out of our Presidents, but they cannot be held accountable for these tragedies.

    I don’t want to hear about the speech Bush gave or the tour Obama did. I want to hear about PROGRESS and preventative action for the future.

    I can only hope that our airports rules are stricter, our response to national disasters is quicker, and our regulations for offshore drilling become tighter. These are the problem areas to focus on. Not whether or not you liked Bush’s or Obama’s speech.

  11. Hacksaw says:

    “Bush & Obama may be presidents of this country, but they are not gods. Underestimating is not always convenient, but it is human. We do expect more out of our Presidents, but they cannot be held accountable for these tragedies.”

    True, but back in 2000 when George W. Bush first won his Party’s nomination for the Presidency, he did not proclaim himself to be some kind of messianic figure who could singlehandedly end wars & heal the planet.

    Obama chose to raise expectations in his own abilities while trying to get elected President by saying,

    “I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth. This was the moment—this was the time—when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves and our highest ideals.”

    so it is not unreasonable to now recall these delusions of grandeur, and ask exactly when we will begin to see some of this “progress” that we were promised in return for electing him.

    So far, he has been in office for about a year & ½ and not one of those grand promises has been kept. I know that Obamatrons & other apologists for this poseur will reference the new healthcare law that was forced through with lies & bribes, and strictly on a party line vote, but I would remind them that the majority this law, if not stricken down by the courts, will still not even take effect until 2014.

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