President Log

Obama Clueless


The Frogs were tired of governing themselves. They had so much freedom that it had spoiled them, and they did nothing but sit around croaking in a bored manner and wishing for a government that could entertain them with the pomp and display of royalty, and rule them in a way to make them know they were being ruled. No milk and water government for them, they declared. So they sent a petition to Jupiter asking for a king.

Jupiter saw what simple and foolish creatures they were, but to keep them quiet and make them think they had a king he threw down a huge log, which fell into the water with a great splash. The Frogs hid themselves among the reeds and grasses, thinking the new king to be some fearful giant. But they soon discovered how tame and peaceable King Log was. In a short time the younger Frogs were using him for a diving platform, while the older Frogs made him a meeting place, where they complained loudly to Jupiter about the government.

To teach the Frogs a lesson the ruler of the gods now sent a Crane to be king of Frogland. The Crane proved to be a very different sort of king from old King Log. He gobbled up the poor Frogs right and left and they soon saw what fools they had been. In mournful croaks they begged Jupiter to take away the cruel tyrant before they should all be destroyed.

“How now!” cried Jupiter “Are you not yet content? You have what you asked for and so you have only yourselves to blame for your misfortunes.””

Like most conservatives, after last year’s election I thought that Obama would prove a President Crane as far as conservatives were concerned.  With large Democrat majorities in the House and Senate I assumed that Obama would implement changes in this country to send it on a left-ward trajectory.  Instead, other than passing the Bankrupt the Nation Act of 2009, sometimes erroneously called the Stimulus bill, Obama has accomplished virtually nothing, a fact which even Saturday Night Live is now mocking. This is astonishing considering the size of his victory last year and the strength of his party in Congress.  Or is it?  I believe there were clear clues from the background of Obama that this might occur.

1.    No Executive Experience-Obama had never run anything:  a state, a government agency, a business, a military unit, anything.  Few Presidents have come  to the White House with such a paucity of being the one in charge over something.  Some presidents with little executive experience have done well, Lincoln comes to mind, although in the case of Lincoln he had run his law office for years, had been in charge of a militia company during the Black Hawk war, and had helped run the Whig and Republican parties in Illinois., but it stands to reason that someone might have a great deal of trouble going from zero executive experience to being in charge of the United States government.

2.    Narcissism-A man who writes his first autobiography, before he has accomplished anything of note, at age 34 is a man not afflicted with excessive modesty.  Most politicians have healthy egos, to say the least, but I think Obama takes this trait to an extreme.  The Olympic fiasco is telling on this point.  Without doing any advance work, apparently Obama thought he could persuade the Olympic committee to award the 2016 Olympics to Chicago simply based upon a speech by him. A section of the speech is telling:

“Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night, people from every corner of the world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch the results of the U.S. Presidential election. Their interest wasn’t about me as an individual. Rather, it was rooted in the belief that America’s experiment in democracy still speaks to a set of universal aspirations and ideals. Their interest sprung from the hope that in this ever-shrinking world, our diversity could be a source of strength, a cause for celebration; and that with sustained work and determination, we could learn to live and prosper together during the fleeting moment we share on this Earth.””

Now what made Obama think the foreigners on the Olympic committee would give two hoots in Hades about his election as President, especially almost a year after the fact, and that they would find this an effective argument in favor of giving the 2016 Olympics to Chicago?   Well, I guess the same reason why he is badly overexposed in this country, giving endless speeches and interviews.  He assumes that he is such a compelling figure that he can persuade people to adopt the course he wishes if he simply talks at them long enough.  Thus far this strategy is a flat failure, but Obama gives no sign of a change in tactics.  As Marty Peretz of the left-leaning New Republic wrote:

“What I suspect is that the president is probably a clinical narcissist. This is not necessarily a bad condition if one maintains for oneself what the psychiatrists call an “optimal margin of illusion,” that is, the margin of hope that allows you to work. But what if his narcissism blinds him to the issues and problems in the world and the inveterate foes of the nation that are not susceptible to his charms?”

Congress has thus far proven largely resistant to the charms of Obama.  If he is going to get his legislation through he has to realize that simply increasing the number of his speeches is not going to do it.

3.  Republicans-Obama comes from my state Illinois where the GOP has been on life support since 1998 when the corrupt George Ryan, a man I voted against, was elected Governor.  His administration was a disaster for the GOP in that his corruption that caused him to be the third Illinois Governor to go to prison (Ex-Governor Blagojevich, they are keeping a cell warm for you!) effectively tarred the entire Republican party in the state.  Obama ran for the state senate on the south side of Chicago where effectively no Republican party exists, and by the time he ran for the federal Senate in 2004 the best the GOP could bring against him was the insane Allan Keyes who ran the most abysmal political campaign I have witnessed, and I was one of the 27% of Illinois voters who voted for Keyes!  In 2008 Obama’s coattails helped add to substantial Democrat majorities in the Senate and in the House.  Obama drew from his experiences that the Republicans who opposed him could be safely ignored.

This has proven to be a big mistake for two reasons.  First,  a substantial portion of the country is Republican and an even larger portion of the country is conservative.  By stiffing the GOP Obama has helped inflame opposition to his policies throughout the country.  If instead he had been conciliatory from the beginning and met at least moderate Republicans halfway, he would be in much better shape legislatively.  Second, if one writes off the opposition party, a President holds himself hostage to elements within his own party.  Better for a President if he has enough votes from the opposing party so that he is not held captive by every faction within his party.  The conflict between the Blue Dogs and the liberals in Congress is disastrous for Obama because without any GOP votes he needs each of these factions to back his legislation.

4.    Reid and Pelosi-Obama had four years in Washington to see Reid and Pelosi in operation, two when they were the Majority Leader and the Speaker.  Based on that experience he had to have realized that both of them were singularly ineffective at getting legislation through Congress.   Instead of seeking to work around them however, he seems content to passively let them stumble along with legislation he submits.  This was to be expected by a man who as a State Senator and as a US Senator had almost no legislative accomplishments.  How to obtain a legislative majority seems to be a mystery to Obama and he doesn’t appear to be interested in learning this art.

5.    Mr. Outsider–   From his two autobiographies it is easy to see that Obama has long viewed himself as a somewhat detached observer.

“As it was, I learned to slip back and forth between my black and white worlds, understanding that each possessed its own language and customs and structures of meaning, convinced that with a bit of translation on my part the two worlds would eventually cohere. Still, the feeling that something wasn’t quite right stayed with me, a warning that sounded whenever a white girl mentioned in the middle of conversation how much she liked Stevie Wonder; or when a woman in the supermarket asked me if I played basketball; or when the school principal told me I was cool.”

I suspect that Obama has carried this sense of detachment with him into the Oval office.  He is the President of the United States now, the ultimate insider, but habits of a lifetime are hard to break.  Rather than charting a course of action, I think too often he is content merely to observe.  This might explain why, in regard to Afghanistan, the most important foreign policy issue he has to deal with, he had spoken to General McChrystal, the commander in Afghanistan, only once after appointing  him.  Obama finds it much easier to observe I think than to act, but, unfortunately for him, taking action and shaping events is what any President has to do if he has any hope of having his policies implemented.

It is early in his Presidency, but unless Obama changes the way he does business, I think all that he will have to show for a one term presidency is a large pile of speeches and interviews and not much else.  Since I oppose virtually everything this President wishes to accomplish, I am of course hoping that he sticks to his present course!

2 Responses to President Log

  1. Art Deco says:

    I think it is incautious of Martin Peretz to offer a clinical diagnosis of a man he has only seen on the news. What is notable about the President is his tendency to plumb the shallows of whatever endeavour he sets himself to: he is admitted to the bar, apparently elects to forego any sort of clerkship, is (after a year) hired as an adjunct at a law school, publishes no scholarly work in twelve years on the faculty, is (after two years) hired as an associate at a law firm, is not granted a partnership and is classified by the firm as ‘of counsel’ after just three years in their employ, is elected to the state legislature, is identified with what notable amendments to the Illinois Revised Statutes nobody knows, allows his membership in the Illinois bar to lapse to a status of ‘inactive’, is elected to the federal legislature, spends about 40% of his time running for higher office and votes ‘present’ a good deal, and so forth. What kind of a lawyer is he?

  2. Donald R. McClarey says:

    “What kind of a lawyer is he?”

    One who obviously never wanted to engage in the practice of law. To be fair to Obama I’d say about a quarter of law school grads fall into this category.

    Obama seems to be very good at getting where he wants to go, but once he is there he doesn’t seem to do anything except move on to the next goal. I wonder what his goal is after the presidency.

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