Thursday, February 12, 2009

Okay, now it's official

The Obama Administration is not ready for primetime. Individual members (cough cough State Dept. cough cough) are fully up to their jobs. And the whole Administration, along with its captain, may find its sea legs -- who knows? maybe even by Day 100. But the first leg of its maiden voyage has by now matched the rockiness of Bill Clinton's start, at least.


Derek said...

While I agree with your overall point about several of the mistakes made so far, a couple of "on the other hand points":

1. Bill Clinton didn't come into office with anything like this storm of economic crisis and two wars in progress. With the increased level of activity beginning Day One comes an increased level of missteps. This would be true for whoever was president (but the actual number/type of missteps for anyone else as president are, of course, merely theoretical).

2. Mike Madden posits a longer perspective than the news cycle:

Those points aside, I expect to wince many more times in the weeks and months ahead, whether because of what the White House is doing, or what the House leadership is doing, or what the Senate leadership is doing. I guess I've finally become a full-fledged New Yorker -- I can now relate to the urge to boo my own team when they disappoint me.

Falstaff said...

I think Madden's piece makes my point. What the last three weeks make unmistakably clear is that no real planning was going on by these people for the past three or four months -- much less the past year -- about what they would actually do once elected. From at least the middle of October on, Obama's victory was obviously in the bag. What have they been doing since then? Vetting people? Uh... Shaping up the right stimulus and bank-rescue packages? Uh... Working on the tactical game plan to make sure these things get enacted? Uh... Lining up quids for quos? Uh... Shaping the operational plan for implementing the rest of their agenda, like healthcare? Uh...

What the last three weeks have shown is not just about the mistakes themselves, but the deeper absence of plan or direction. They're making these mistakes because they're making all this up as they go along. During the interim between election and Inauguration, they simply couldn't tear themselves away from that very attractive mirror. And now, I think, Obama's presidency has already been damaged in ways from which it will never recover. He's lost ground he'll never make up. He may still do good, but far less than he should have -- and that's being optimistic. Nature abhors a vacuum, especially in politics, especially in times of crisis (i.e., when actual action is required, when posturing won't do). Not only the Republicans, but the world has seen that this guy is weak, indecisive, unclear in his direction... that he can be played by dead people. He may succeed in getting tougher, but he's already given away cards he's not going to get back, I'm afraid.

Shainzona said...

Obama has always been a Political Lurker...always in the picture, but never out front, never leading the charge. Even his "famous" speech on Iraq (the one he went back and re-recorded…even with crowd noises because no one bothered when he actually delivered it) resulted in not a single attempt by BO to end the war once he got into the Senate. But then, he was so busy on day one running for his next promotion he forgot that little issue, didn't he?

I remember reading about him running into committee members on their way to a press conference about something they had just accomplished. He said, "What's up" and they told him and he said, "Can I come along"? They said sure - they wanted people on the podium for pictures and then he had the audacity (whoops!) to take the mic and speak as if he had been personally involved in the accomplishment. Staffers were pissed as hell at what he did.

He lurked in CT in 2006 (never really coming out and supporting Ned Lamont). He always has and still lurks on pro-choice (using weasel words and voting present). He lurks on race (demanding a dialog and then saying we should all move on - pun intended!).

Where in the world does he really stand on things? He doesn’t…because he’s always lurking waiting to see which way the wind is blowing before he takes – even an initial – stand.
That’s why it took him days and weeks respond to things during the primary.

Barack Obama has no convictions.

Therefore he has no policies.

And therefore, he will never have any plans upon which he stakes his convictions.

A sad day for America and the world.

Falstaff said...

I agree, Shainzona. In fact, as I've posted before, I don't think this can be understood in conscious terms or in the sphere of political judgment. Contra some PUMAs, I don't think he's some kind of clever right-winger in liberal's clothing. I think we're seeing someone with a deep need not to be seen -- including (indeed, most importantly) by himself. In stark contrast to Hillary, he doesn't have the first idea who's actually in there. He's even hiding in his autobiography, where he becomes more opaque as one reads.

Thing is, this job does not permit invisibility. As I've also posted elsewhere, he's walked out onto the biggest stage of all, and he won't get off it without us and him knowing who, in fact, he is. That's the case in palmy times, and it's certainly the case in a tempest.

Having said all that, my point here was somewhat simpler. It was about preparation. I did credit him with skill at that. He was better prepared for some aspects of the primaries than was Hillary - he had what turned out to be an intelligent game plan. It was all he had, of course -- his ability to run plays was really limited, all float-like-a-butterfly, no sting-like-a-bee. But figuring out about the Net, about the generational emotions of Millenials, and about how to game the caucuses was smart tactically. But it turns out that his ability to prepare seems to be limited to campaigning. He and his team don't seem to have been able to prepare for actual governing.

And the question he faces, and that we all face, is whether he can become a person in real time, in the midst of the tempest. Or, more accurately, what person it'll turn out is in there, what person he has been so terrified of his entire life and that he's pervasively and energetically kept in the box. And, then, whether than person is up to the demands of the moment.

A long shot -- but, I suppose, not impossible. We'll be finding out soon enough.

Shainzona said...

Falstaff - Do you think it was BO that succeeded as you've noted in the primary - or the people around him? I am getting signals of another "puppet" of the masters he serves - just like Bush. Obama may be smarter (I don't know that), but he's still a puppet IMHO.

Falstaff said...

I think Obama is a very smart guy, with a lot of skills. I just don't think they're leadership skills. And as we've been saying here, I don't think he knows who he is, or that he has much of an idea about what should be done. But I do credit him with wanting to achieve a state of affairs -- a kind of peace descending on all of us, emanating from his own capacity to charm and inspire. And one would have to say that he's done pretty well in his life so far on that basis. Problem is, now he's in his first real job, with real work. And like many people in workplaces whose ambition exceeds both their experience and their self-knowledge, he's Peter Principled himself into the spotlight. There's no "upstairs" to which he can be kicked... so he'd better develop a compass pretty fast.