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Peggy Noonan nails it: "He Was Supposed To Be Competent"

To hear liberals talk about the Bush Administration, it was simply the most destructive combination of stupidity and corruption imaginable.

By the end of 2005, concern over a "quagmire" in Iraq, combined with the disaster surrounding Hurricane Katrina, left the Bush Administration in political dire straits. Democrats wasted no time convincing the American people that a Republican-controlled government was synonymous with cronyism, a "culture of corruption," gross incompetence, and a deliberate desire to harm certain groups of people. What America needed was "change."

Implicit, though, in such political rhetoric is this promise: "If you elect us these kinds of things will never happen again, because we're better, smarter, more efficient, and far more virtuous than the other guys."

In her latest WSJ opinion piece, Peggy Noonan expands on this theme, and its disastrous political consequences for Barack Obama, who has sadly and utterly failed to live up to the standard of competence that his party created for him:

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 the 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.

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 indispensable 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.

... 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.

Tunku Varadarajan was also on the same page earlier this week:

Once you set out, as a president or a party, to propagate a message that the government has (or is) the panacea for all ills, then failure to deal with an ill leads to your being hoist with your own panacea-petard. If the entire range of your political program rests on the message that the government is the problem-solver, the deliverer from evil, the Messiah, the curative current that runs through our civitas, then a failure to solve a problem, to deliver from evil--or from an evil oil spill--leads to consternation, bafflement, and profound disillusion in the ranks of the faithful.

Conservatives know this. "Tea Partiers" know this. Will liberals ever learn, or will they be stuck forever in "too big to fail" thinking?


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Comments (19)

Of course, a blown out well... (Below threshold)
John S:

Of course, a blown out well in the gulf is no more Obama's fault than a goddamn hurricane was Bush's fault. It was opportunistic for the Dems and their media lapdogs to piss on the graves of 1,000 hurricane flood victims just to bash the Bush administration. So today it warms my heart to see the pitbull media turn on the Obama as well.

Peggy Noonan just got numbe... (Below threshold)
retired military:

Peggy Noonan just got number 1 on Lee Ward's and Jim X's enemy list.

Context is also critical. ... (Below threshold)

Context is also critical. Katrina came on the heels of relentless Democratic assaults about Iraq. The oil spill comes when European welfare states are crashing and burning. And as the Obama stimulus plan continures to prove to be a failure. And as more media reports are coming out with new surprises about what was actually in the rotten healthcare mess.

Each straw adds weight.

The big problem for Preside... (Below threshold)

The big problem for President Obama isn't that the accident occurred or that it was difficult to fix. The big problem is that the effort to protect valuable wildlife habitat was so pathetic. Oil has been washing up on shore for almost three weeks, Gulf Coast states have been raising the alarm, and the Federal government has not only failed to move to protect vital areas, in many cases the Coast Guard and the Corps of Engineers have moved to keep the states from erecting barriers against the oil.

Protection and cleanup efforts have not been well coordinated or well managed. Now it's too late. CNN had a correspondent in a boat in a wetlands area that was filling with oil. All around him the trees were starting to die. Then they cut to Gov. Jindal (LA) expressing his disappointment with the Federal government's total lack of effort to protect these habitats. I have to agree: I don't see a lot of effort to protect the shoreline. I would have expected to see critical areas identified and a major effort made to protect those areas. I watched a lot of news coverage from a pro-Obama media, and I didn't see it.

I suspect that Obama didn't move to protect wildlife areas so that he can propose new regulation of oil production. Democrats are pointing to the Republican, "Drill baby drill" mantra as the ultimate cause. (Never let a crisis go to waste.) However, it's not President Bush's fault that the Federal government didn't build sand berms and other barriers to protect vital areas.

The Daily Caller has a timeline of Obama has been doing while the Gulf Coast dies: http://dailycaller.com/2010/05/28/what-obama-has-been-doing-while-the-gulf-coast-dies/

Being that Lee and jim x ar... (Below threshold)

Being that Lee and jim x are butt buddies they most definitely will.

Do not forget that Noonan w... (Below threshold)

Do not forget that Noonan was one of the (P)residents supporters...

More later, I'm going outside to have fun.

Did Peggy wash her hands fi... (Below threshold)
Don L:

Did Peggy wash her hands first like Pontious Pilate?

She seemed to champion this incompetent for a while. My -these pricipled weathervane pundits!

The fed's main responsibilt... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

The fed's main responsibilty is the cleanup, which they could be doing a better job, but the most crucial responsiblity of capping the leak is BP's. The main lesson to be learned from Deepwater is,

Will our presidents and lawmakers ever fully comprehend that letting corporations write their own rules and choose their own regulators invites disasters? Will they ever start shoring up regulations and regulators proactively rather than simply playing whack-a-mole after each individual failure?

Most of you who want more of a corporate 'free-enterprise' state, with very limited federal government 'socialist' input are seeing how incompetent and irresponsible multinational corporations such as bigoil are, when left to their own devices and decisions based on their own risk assessment, a bit like Wall Street.

The most important lesson t... (Below threshold)

The most important lesson to learn from Deepwater, Steve, is that forcing the oil companies to drill way the fuck offshore in really difficult conditions order to satisfy your environmentalist buddies is a stupid damn way to run a railroad.

You think the accident or cleanup would have been anywhere near so difficult or time consuming if it'd been done, for example, on a 10-acre plot in ANWR? Or in various identified yet prohibited oil reserves closer in, in shallower water?

And why do you think that government has expertise or insight that the oil companies lack when it comes to actual drilling and operating in deep water?

"Mr. Obama was supposed to ... (Below threshold)

"Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent."

Ah, Peggy! Welcome to the real world. Amazing what one can SEE, when the scales fall from one's eyes.

HOW'S THE VIEW NOW, PEGGY? When did HE ever display competence in the past?

Guess what, babe? Now you're going to be SEEING a lot more! Learn to live with it. You were one of many of your 'intellectual elite' who supported him! Everyone who pointed out his past track record of NOTHING were just RED-NECKED RACISTS!

Obama got into office throu... (Below threshold)

Obama got into office through the help of a whole lot of people, not necessarily all on the left. (Yeah, you Ron Paul spammers - I'm glancing in your direction also.) There were plenty of signs of Obama's lack of experience or success in ANYTHING having to do with governmental competence - but it was all glossed over with the 'racist!' meme. After all, how could you be against a black man for ANYTHING but racist reasons?

The fact that he'd never prepped himself for the job of President, didn't have any actual knowledge of what to do in the job, had no experience in governing a state or even running a foundation successfully OR being a successful Senator (look up Grove Parc and Obama's involvement thereof, and his woefully unattended time in the US Senate...) had nothing to do with our objections - it was just keepin' a bruther DOWN, man!

The Presidency is a job where knowledge and experience is VITAL, as well as an understanding that YOU cannot get out of the job. EVERYTHING you do, or don't do, will reflect DIRECTLY on you, and you won't be able to escape it. Your BEST POSSIBLE JUDGEMENT is always needed, you ALWAYS have to be thinking about the ramifications of what you do or don't do - and you NEVER have the choice of just ignoring a problem and hoping it'll go away. You may put it on a back burner, you may choose not do deal with it (and if you do, you'd damn well better explain clearly to everyone you can just WHY it'll be better to deal with it later) but in the end it's ALWAYS going to be your responsibility, and your fault.

Obama thought this would be an office like he'd always held. One where he could do as much or little as he pleased, party frequently, and avoid oversight and responsibility for his decisions. Why should he think otherwise? That was his experience of 'governing'.

Instead, he was tossed into the center ring of the circus, put into a juggling act where the predecessor had a dozen nitroglycerine filled glass balls in the air, and had to keep the whole fountain going without dropping a single throw.

Sucks to be him, that's for sure. I pity the guy - he's dropped a ball, and now he has to deal with the aftermath. It's no longer fun - no longer party time, and he won't be shielded by a willing and compliant press. The next two years are going to be hell for him.

And yes, I pity the poor sap.

"It's not good to have a pr... (Below threshold)

"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 indispensable 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."

Killer quote. That's going to leave a mark! President Apology is not going to like that one bit! And "That it is his fault is no comfort." Is really twisting the knife after you've shoved it into the belly.

"He Was Supposed To Be C... (Below threshold)

"He Was Supposed To Be Competent"

He about as competent as one can incompetently be.

That wasn't very competent ... (Below threshold)

That wasn't very competent of me to leave out the s

Steve:RE: "The fed... (Below threshold)


RE: "The fed's main responsibilty is the cleanup, which they could be doing a better job, but the most crucial responsiblity of capping the leak is BP's."

Actually, the main responsibility is protection. That is the task that the Obama administration has failed to do while they sat on the sidelines and ordered BP to move faster to plug the leak. (Notice that President Obama and his family are apparently fixated on "plugging the hole", but that's an area he can't do much. The area that he could have affected positive change, didn't appear on his personal radar.)

RE: "The main lesson to be learned from Deepwater is [plea for new laws and regulations]"

The main lesson to be learned is that the Federal government isn't very good at what they are supposed to do (with one exception). Even in the regulatory field, the Federal government has the authority, but they don't do that very well. However, the one thing the Federal government is good at is spending money. That's it's core competency.

Dear Peggy, there was utter... (Below threshold)

Dear Peggy, there was utterly no evidence during the campaign that Barack Obama was competent. Competency was not a quality Obama exhibited, but rather one you projected. Vote for a moron, and get a moron.

Next thing Peggy "Of the El... (Below threshold)

Next thing Peggy "Of the Elite Intelligentsia" Noonan will tell us is:

Obama said 'the air will begin to clear, the earth begin to heal, the seas stop their rise'.

It hasn't happened.

Oh really, Peggy? And you actually thought that it would? But that's just ol' me - a RACIST REDNECK!

Come to think of it Peggy, dear. That article of yours? YOU RACIST!!!

Peggy Noonan was supposed t... (Below threshold)

Peggy Noonan was supposed to be a real journalist with integrity......

Ms Noonan says it's not goo... (Below threshold)

Ms Noonan says it's not good to have a (pretender) in his position: weakened, polarizing and lacking broad public support; less than halfway (barring his impeachment, ouster and/or resignation) through his term.

But from where I'm sitting it's a bloody sight better to have him so now than it was a year and a half ago!






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