Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rating Obama

Slate has four criteria that make a good president.

Political skill: Campaigns give us a good idea of a candidate's priorities, but can they read the political landscape they'll face when they get to office? Are they honest enough to win voters' trust but ruthless enough cut a deal with their enemies when necessary? Are they comfortable with the schmoozing, backslapping, and ego-massaging that comes with the job?

Management ability: Is the candidate focused enough to follow an overarching vision, but nimble enough to tweak that vision when real-world events intervene? Can they admit mistakes and learn from them? Can they sift through complex ideas? Can they recognize baloney when it comes from their staff or supporters? Do they know how to hire a good team?

Persuasiveness: Do they know how to deliver a good speech? Do they know when to stay quiet? Do they know how to read public opinion? Is it possible for a president to short circuit Congress by taking an issue directly to the people?

Temperament: Has the candidate ever faced a true crisis? Do they have the equanimity to handle the erratic and unpredictable pressures of the office? How are they with uncertainty?

How does President Obama stack up?

Political Skill: Woodward's new book The Price of Politics gives several examples of how poor the President is at deal-making. During his first two years his policy was "F--- the Republicans, we have the votes!" After losing the house in 2010 he never came up with a workable strategy. Woodward says that Reagan and Clinton each had extensive congressional outreach and liaison programs. Even a first-term congressman might get a call from the president. In contrast, Obama has no outreach. Even committee heads can't get their calls returned by the White House. Some of the most powerful men in Congress are not sure that the President knows their names.

Management ability: All of the insider accounts of the White House say that it is a mess. There is no organization. cabinet members feel bullied (especially women in the White House). Obama is very poor about admitting mistakes. He tends to blame everything on someone else, usually Bush. When terrorists attacked the Libyan consulate on 9/11 and killed four Americans including the ambassador, he claimed that it was a spontaneous demonstration over a movie. He blames the Bush tax cuts for the deficit even though he supports making most of them permanent (which makes them the Obama tax cuts).

Persuasiveness: This should be Obama's strong point but his speeches get less effective every time he makes one. Reagan was a master of appealing to the electorate to put pressure on Congress, a skill that Obama failed at. At the Democratic National Convention he was rated as the third best speaker.

Temperament: Obama shies away from hard choices - things like entitlement reform. He did order the death of Osama bin Laden but there are reports that he cancelled similar operations earlier in the year at the suggestion of his political adviser, Valery Jaret. When told that the Libyan consulate was under attack and the ambassador missing, he went to bed.

It is hard to imagine a person less suited to being president. Even White House insider books written by fans and admirers of the President admit his failings.

No comments: