SYNDICATED COLUMN: Obama’s Governus Interruptus


Obama is a Uniquely Lazy, Ignorant, Weird President Who Has Done More to Undermine Faith in American Democracy Than We Could Have Imagined In Our Worst Nightmare

Obama will go down in history as a unique president. Because he’s black*, obviously.

Also because he’s a uniquely weird guy: a politician who knows nothing about politics — and doesn’t seem interested in figuring it out. Even while his presidency is in crisis, he’s so obliviously impassively oblivious you have to wonder if he’s living in the same dimension as the rest of us.

Officially (Dow Jones Industrial Average, rich people’s incomes, the fake unemployment and inflation figures issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics), the economy is recovering. Officially, the wars are ending. (“On the ground” in Iraq and Afghanistan, not so much.) Yet Obama’s approval ratings are plunging, even lower than other recent two-term presidents at the same point in time — including the vile, insipid, illegitimate usurper Bush.

No wonder: Obama’s messaging is lousy. John McCain, a zillion years older than the president he lost to and operating with a brain damaged under torture, can see it — so why can’t Obama?

That’s what McCain was wondering aloud after a panel convened to advise Obama about the NSA issued its report: “Most presidents would have now given a speech and said, ‘OK, here’s what the recommendations are; here’s what I think we ought to do.’ Instead, it just came out.” Like a wet turd. “There’s not a translation of facts and events to remedies that the president supports.” How hard is it to tell the panel to submit their ideas to him first so he can repackage the ones he agrees with as his own? That’s Management 101.

Obama is ignorant. Doesn’t have a clue what his minions are up to. Which is bad. Obama’s ignorance is devastating because he lets us know that he doesn’t know. Reagan only read single-page memos, and though Americans suspected he was daft, they didn’t know. It makes a difference.

Chiming in from the even-a-right-winger-who-loved-Bush-can-be-right-twice-a-year corner of The Washington Post op-ed page, Charles Krauthammer marvels: “With alarming regularity, [Obama] professes obliviousness to the workings of his own government. He claims, for example, to have known nothing about the IRS targeting scandal, the AP phone records scandal, the NSA tapping of Angela Merkel. And had not a clue that the centerpiece of his signature legislative achievement — the online Obamacare exchange, three years in the making — would fail catastrophically upon launch. Or that Obamacare would cause millions of Americans to lose their private health plans.”

Dude went to Columbia and Harvard. He seems smart. What’s wrong with him? Is he — as his former colleagues at the University of Chicago, who noticed that he never published — lazy? He’s certainly a far cry from the LBJ who, according to his biographer Robert Caro, routinely burned the midnight oil committing every sentence of every bill, ever, to memory.

Obviously, a president who finds time to watch sports, play golf and kick off for vacations for weeks at a time — while the global economy is melting down — hell, while his signature legislative accomplishment, Obamacare has all but completely imploded — is lazy as all get up. Still, there’s nothing new about presidential sloth. Reagan, Clinton and Bush all worked less than the average minimum-wage worker whose misery they were steadfastly ignoring.

Obama is unique, though. It goes beyond laziness. He doesn’t follow tried and true practices of presidential governance that have served his predecessors for more than two centuries. Intentional? Who knows? It seems more than likely that (and this is so outlandish that I’ve literally waited years to write these words) he is so ignorant of history that he doesn’t know why and how previous presidents have failed and succeeded. Because, let’s face it, if this is three-dimensional chess, he’s down three queens.

The most blinding example of Obama’s ignorance of/unwillingness to/disdain for the act of governing/politicking is what I call Governus Interruptus — delivering a major speech on a problem, then failing to follow up with a policy initiative (a bill, say).

“President Obama’s speeches…are often thoughtful, nuanced, highly evocative, and exceptionally well-delivered — and worse than inconsequential,” Amitai Etzioni writes in The Atlantic. “They raise expectations — a world without nukes! Ending global warming! Finally curbing gun violence! — but are not followed by much of anything. These barren speeches are one reason the public, and especially the young, are becoming disaffected from politics, bad news for any democracy.”

Speaking of LBJ: When he announced “a national war on poverty” with one objective — “total victory” — to lift up the people “who have not shared in the abundance which has been granted to most of us, and on whom the gates of opportunity have been closed” — he didn’t leave it at that. Food stamps, Head Start and other anti-poverty programs followed…laws that began as bills. Bills drafted by the White House and proposed to Congress, which the president strong-armed into passing.

Where is Obama’s nuclear disarmament bill? Why hasn’t he convened a global summit to address the environmental emergency, with the U.S. leading the way with dramatic initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases? Where is his gun control proposal?

Obama jawboned his way into the White House. Evidently Obama hasn’t read enough to know that talking isn’t governing.

Either that, or he doesn’t care.

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4 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Obama’s Governus Interruptus

  1. It’s pretty sick that a guy can get one of the most important jobs without real work.

    Is it really just that he is lazier? I figured he thinks he has to say things to retain some support but is covered by his belief that people will never look past or expect more than lip service. My dad doesn’t like Obama but still gives him some credit just for mentioning things. I say he thinks he can say these things and just blame Congress for not acting. He thinks that is is cover. I mean when he DOES want to do something, he just does it unilaterally! It reminds me of the way the Dems waited until now to use the ‘nuclear option’ in the Senate when they could have done it in 2009 and had given the nation single payer!!!

    Also, I figured he and his advisers made the simplistic calculation that it looks better to be unaware of bad things than to admit knowledge or leadership in those scandals. He loves Reagan, so I’m thinking of Iran-Contra. The People decided it wasn’t Reagan’s fault because he just didn’t know and Ollie was such a likeable well-meaning guy…

    • Obama reminds me of the guy at the job interview who gives all the carefully polished answers. He has great timing, great poise, smiles just right, gives just enough pressure on the handshake, etc. Does everything right. Charisma. Very few people can see through it.

      I didn’t. I started to get suspicious after a few months, but by then, well, that was too late.

      I now realize that Obama is, like a lot of people who have charisma, not a very deep thinker. Can anyone point to anything Obama has said that actually made them think? Any truly profound comments, observations, assertions? It’s all just glib surface glam, fancier versions of “USA, USA, USA!”

  2. Where is his gun control proposal?

    I can give you effective gun control with a one-paragraph bill:

    I would make it law in all 50 states that any American registered as a voter be permitted to obtain a gun (and bullets) and be allowed to bring that gun (and bullets) to, from, and into any politician’s office.

    There’s the law. Let’s see what the pols do with it.

  3. Obama may not be introducing bills because he believes it would be breaking with the tradition that bills are to be introduced by corporate lobbyists.

    He is a very well behaved minion of his corporate masters. And clearly in over his head and not capable of doing more than acting as their pitchman.