Friday, December 27, 2013

Obama's Bad Year

There is no question that President Obama had a bad year. Nearly every president has problems in his second term. But Obama's management style made this a particularly bad year.

President Obama is not really interested in every aspect of being president. He loves some parts. When he says "I'm really good at killing people" he really means that he likes going through lists of potential drone targets deciding who will live and who will die. It's the parts that he is not interested in that cause him problems.

Obama does not care much for foreign policy. His original goal was to reverse everything that Bush did. He alienated long-standing allies like Great Britain and India and courted Russia. Since then he has let foreign affairs drift with a reactive policy rather than a pro-active one. He supports whoever is in power until it is obvious that they are about to be removed then he says they should go. The rest of the world no longer trusts him or the US and the Muslim world is outraged by his increasing use of drones.

Domestically he prefers short-term political wins over long-term solutions. These often backfire on him. He was regarded as winning the fiscal cliff showdown at the beginning of the year but that led to the sequester which was supposed to be so harmful that the Republicans would do anything to prevent it. The Republicans decided that a bad set of budget cuts was better than any deal they could get from the White House and Obama was embarrassed when the world failed to end.

Obama hates to hear bad news and the White House is set up to shield him from any. That means that he is constantly surprised by scandals. The failure of the Obamacare web site, the IRS targeting of conservative groups and the constant leak about the scope of NSA spying all caught him be surprise. In each case he excused himself from responsibility claiming that he was as surprised as anyone when he found out about these from the newspapers.

It is difficult to govern properly without full knowledge of events. If Obama had been told about the numerous problems with Obamacare he could have acted differently during the shutdown. He could have agreed to a one-year postponement and spent 2014 excoriating the Republicans. Instead he stood firm until the Republicans surrendered. This gave him a short term advantage in that the Republicans approval rating dropped more than his did but this was drowned out by the failure of Obamacare.

There has always been a great deal of arrogance in the Obama administration. They were sure that they ould remake the world and that lead to overreach. One high-level progressive who deals with the White House complains that "they think their shit doesn't stink". This reenforces Obama's tendency to seek political wins rather than compromise. This also causes him to bypass Congress completely and use executive authority to implement his preferred policies.

There is no sign of any major changes in the White House. No one has been fired. Instead a new spin-artist has been brought in. Inevitably, Obama will have more disasters breakout and will continue to flail about in a reactive mode.

No comments: