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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Bipartisan Incompetence

In After Hope and Change, we explain that expectations for President Obama were very high when he took office in 2009.  In particular, many Americans in both parties hoped that he would mark a fundamental change from the administration of George W. Bush.  But in a number of ways (e.g., political insiderism, NSA surveillance), he has continued in the ways of the previous administration.  At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green notes another unfortunate similarity:
Who says that the bipartisan spirit is dead? Just last week, Pew Research listed incompetent as the word most frequently associated with President George W. Bush, and President Barack Obama. A day later, the administration announced that it was putting Obamacare’s much-vaunted employer mandate on hold for a year, until January 1, 2015, even as television cameras steadily streamed pictures from Cairo of the lethal tumult once known as the Arab Spring.
Obama barely talks to the Democrats and is incapable of communicating with congressional Republicans (for his part, House Speaker John Boehner can’t corral his caucus). But beyond the mechanics of legislation, Obama appears to be over his head. Winning the hearts of the Democratic donor base is one thing, but imposing America’s will on foreign governments, gaining Vladimir Putin’s respect, or mastering the implementation of signature legislation are different challenges, and right now Obama seems lacking.
Also note errors in political stagecraft, where the president has often been more effective. As the Egyptian crisis began, the news media reported that Secretary of State John Kerry was boating in Nantucket.  The State Department denied the report but had to backtrack in the face of photographic evidence.  Organizing for Action compounded the error by cheerily tweeting an old photo of the president in a kayak -- not the image that a president wants to convey as a key nation verges on civil war. George W. Bush suffered great political damage from a photo showing him strumming a guitar during Hurricane Katrina.