According to the Gallup Poll, the Prophet Obama’s job approval is at its lowest since his coronation. It began at 70 percent. Now it is 51 percent. Equally glum, his disapproval rating has climbed from 11 percent to 42 percent.
So what about the president’s golf game up there on Martha’s Vineyard? From all I have been able to ascertain, it is mediocre. In other words, President Obama, you are no Dan Quayle. Vice President Quayle was a superb golfer. Moreover, he ran a competent staff. Naturally, it was smaller than Mr. Obama’s, but it was competently run.
My belief, based on reports in the news and from my private network of seasoned agents and provocateurs, is that this White House is a carousel of incompetence. How else do we explain the ravening push on all fronts — health care, the environment, fiscal reform, intelligence reform — and a foreign policy of humility and apology? Unsurprisingly, the president is in trouble on every front. Remember White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s callous enjoinder, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste”? This White House is a serious crisis.
According to sources with whom I confer, the Obama White House is the most tightly controlled White House in years, with the president, Mr. Emanuel and White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod micromanaging practically everything. They make up what is called “the Politburo,” and the news story waiting to be written is that their control is as stultifying as was Jimmy Carter’s control of his White House. Stupendous failure is in the cards.
The Politburo follows no organizational flow charts. A source deeply rooted in official Washington tells me that when the president and his fellows want information from the National Security Council, they may go to its head, Gen. James L. Jones, or they may not. They may just call in one or two of his subordinates.
If they do this with Gen. Jones, they probably do it with other government heads. That cannot be good for morale, to say nothing of orderly decision-making.
Slowly, some news stories are appearing that convey the harum-scarum state of things in the Obama government. Burnout afflicts staffers. The president has fewer than half his appointments in place to advance his historically unprecedented agenda. Mr. Emanuel, your crisis is shaping up nicely.
Some months back, Sidney Blumenthal, then a loyal Democrat expecting an appointment at the State Department, where he would serve with his idol, Hillary Rodham Clinton, inadvertently told a reporter that the Chicagoans coming in with Mr. Obama were even greener than the Arkansans who came in with the Clintons. By “greener” he was not referring to their environmental bona fides. He was referring to their governmental experience. They were provincials, though coming from a large and sophisticated city such as Chicago, they were much less aware of what they did not know than were the Arkansans. Remember, Mr. Blumenthal is from Chicago, and he was very close to the Clintons. His revelation is well-grounded.
Mr. Blumenthal did not get the appointment the Clintons wanted for him. That brings me to still more evidence of the Politburo’s incompetence, to wit: bringing a Clinton into the Cabinet. Last year, Mr. Obama beat Mrs. Clinton in an acrimonious competition for the nomination. She was beaten and out of the limelight. Her husband was discredited as a campaigner and revealed as a cad. The Clintons should have been history.
But the geniuses in what we now call the Politburo brought Mrs. Clinton back to center stage and installed her at the State Department. Then they attempted to hem her in by appointing special envoys and ambassadors, nearly 20 composing what The Washington Times reports is “a confusing patchwork of policy fiefdoms inside the administration that lacks clearly defined lines of command and has the potential for miscommunication on a grand scale.” So they brought to the State Department the kind of confusion they brought to the White House, and they did it at a time when foreign policy has to contend with international terror, nuclear proliferation, two wars and a dollar in decline. Moreover, they have antagonized the Clintons.
During the 1990s, such incompetence was not particularly dangerous. The economy was sound. The Cold War was over. We could sit back and enjoy the show as President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich entertained us. It was, as a gifted phrasemaker put it, “the end of history.” Now, history has begun again.
Nuclear arms could fall into the hands of the kind of barbarians who attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001. Other nations are prospering with modern conceptions of economic growth, while here at home, the economy is weak and overseen by reactionaries with a 1930s grasp of governance and economics. At the White House, we see three amateurs and a carousel of incompetence.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute.