- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2014

Incompetence breeds incompetence, and eventually the slowest-witted among us recognizes the man who not only doesn’t know what he’s doing but won’t listen to those who do. His earnest ignorance blights everything he touches. Even yellow-dog Democrats are growling.

By all accounts Barack Obama is a nice man, decent, attractive, a faithful husband, devoted father and highly intelligent. He no doubt means well, by his lights, blinkered by ideology. He’s just not very smart.


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Like a lot of liberals, he has learned a lot of things that ain’t so, and is eager to apply them. He learned, as the hyper-educated often do, to mistrust experience and common sense. Only such a sage, armed with prodigious book-learning, will sit down on a red-hot stove twice (if that’s where the textbook tells him to sit).

Mr. Obama doesn’t know much about the 57 states of America (as he once numbered them), or how Americans think, or appreciate the fundamental verities Americans cherish. How could he? His Kenyan father abandoned the family when Barack was a small boy, and when the Kenyan father didn’t work out his mother found another Third World father for him, one with no appreciation of America, either, and took him to Indonesia to spend his formative years far from the influences of America and the West. The poor Jakarta street kid, as he described himself, never knew the down-home delight of a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich. He famously said the evening call to Muslim prayer he heard in Jakarta was the prettiest sound on earth, and in his tender ears it no doubt was. That’s because he never heard America singing.


His later childhood years in Hawaii, with his expensive private-school education, couldn’t teach him much about America. Hawaii is a gorgeous tropical paradise, where life is a day at the beach. No one growing up in Hawaii has ever heard the sighing of an icy wind through the wheat fields, the wail of an outbound freight at 3 o’clock in the morning on its way across the sleeping continent. His lack of intuitive knowledge of his native land is not Barack Obama’s fault, but he never tried to challenge his ignorance. He doesn’t understand why the rest of us think Abraham Lincoln was right that America is, indeed, “the exceptional nation.” We hear a hymn to the land — “… for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life …” and think that hymn, not the call to Muslim prayer, is the prettiest sound on earth.

Competence, and the lack of it, is why the president is in trouble, but his stunting of the land he governs deprives him of a well of good will when his times get tough. A new poll, taken for The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, bears this out. A majority of 54 percent say they “no longer feel [that Mr. Obama] is able to lead the country and get the job done; only 41 percent say his incompetence has grown worse over the past year. A new poll by Gallup plunges his favorability rating deep into Jimmy Carter country.

Americans rarely post a judgment on a president’s conduct of foreign affairs, figuring that the president knows more about the woes of the world than they do. Now most Americans, who get their news from the papers just like he does, think they know as much about a world on fire as the president does. That’s a very scary thought.

Every week the president has his latest very bad week. Benghazi is a nightmare that won’t go away. A screw-up in Syria is followed by cock-up in Ukraine followed by calamity in Iraq followed by the prospect of catastrophe with Iran. If the president was praying for a distraction from all these foreign woes, his prayer has been answered by convulsion along the nation’s border with Mexico. The president’s complicity in the convulsion is clear to everyone but him. Or maybe to him, too. This may be the way to the transformation of America he promised to a gullible electorate yearning to be fooled in 2008.

The president is immune to voter retaliation for his incompetence, but his party and its candidates for the House and Senate are not. The Republicans, perfectly capable of blowing an opportunity to take over Congress, would be the buffer between Barack Obama and his transformation schemes he is well on his way to executing. That buffer is what the Republicans have to sell. It’s what stands between us and the abyss.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times