A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Quote of the Day: A Snakebit President

The president is starting to look snakebit. He's starting to look unlucky, like Jimmy Carter. It wasn't Mr. Carter's fault that the American diplomats were taken hostage in Tehran, but he handled it badly, and suffered. He defied the rule of the King in "Pippin," the Broadway show of Carter's era, who spoke of "the rule that every general knows by heart, that it's smarter to be lucky than it's lucky to be smart." Mr. Carter's opposite was Bill Clinton, on whom fortune smiled with eight years of relative peace and a worldwide economic boom. What misfortune Mr. Clinton experienced he mostly created himself. History didn't impose it.

It isn't Mr. Obama's fault that an oil rig blew in the Gulf and a gusher resulted. He already had two wars and the great recession. But the lack of adequate federal government response appropriately redounds on him. In a Wall Street Journal investigation published Thursday, reporters Jeffrey Ball and Jonathan Weisman wrote the federal government at first moved quickly, but soon "faltered." "The federal government, which under the law is in charge of fighting large spills, had to make things up as it went along." It hadn't anticipated a spill this big. The first weekend in May, when water was rough, contractors hired by BP to lay boom "mostly stayed ashore," according to a local official. "Shrimpers took matters into their own hands, laying 18,000 feet of boom," compared to about 4,000 feet by BP's contractors.

No reason to join the pile on, but some small points. Two growing weaknesses showed up in small phrases. The president said he had consulted among others "experts in academia" on what to do about the calamity. This while noting, again, that his energy secretary has a Nobel Prize. There is a growing meme that Mr. Obama is too impressed by credentialism, by the meritocracy, by those who hold forth in the faculty lounge, and too strongly identifies with them. He should be more impressed by those with real-world experience. It was the "small people" in the shrimp boats who laid the boom.

There is still a sense about Mr. Obama that he needs George W. Bush in order to give his presidency full shape and meaning. In this he is like Jimmy Carter, who needed Richard Nixon, or rather the Watergate scandal, which made him president. Mr. Carter needed Richard Nixon standing in the corner looking like he'd spent the night sleeping in his suit as it hangs in the closet. The image is from Joe McGinnis's "The Selling of the President, 1968." Mr. Carter needed to be able to point at Nixon and say, "I'm not him. He dirty, me clean. You hate him, like me." Carter's presidency was given coherence and meaning by Nixon, Watergate, and without it that presidency seemed formless. Mr. Obama, in the same way, needs Mr. Bush standing in the corner like Boo Radley, saying "Let's invade something!" But Mr. Bush is wisely back home in Texas finishing a book, and the president never sounds weaker than when he suggests his predicament is all his predecessor's fault.

Mr. Obama needs Mr. Bush in the corner and doesn't have him. That's part of why he looks so alone out there.

You can Read Peggy Noonan's entire editorial, "A Snakebit President," here.


Mark said...

We have an egghead, not a leader, in the Oval Office. Even the liberals are starting to turn on him.

cspogue said...


Noonan was very willing to give Bush a pass after Katrina. It should surprise no one that a Wall Street Journal Editorial Page writer isn't doing the same thing for Obama.

The hypocrisy on the right including Louisiana's "leadership" is not very surprising. One would think that a moratorium on deep sea drilling would be a no-brainer but instead it is opposed by Louisiana's elected officials of both parties.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Mark and CS... thanks for your comments.

CS... Actually, having read several of Noonan's editorials during the Katrina situation, she was indeed critical of President Bush, so I don't know where you get your facts on this one. Was she less critical of Bush than Obama? Perhaps. I am not interested in judging columnists responses by degrees. I would expect that columnists on the left critical of President Obama might be have been even more critical of President Bush. I am not sure where that observation gets us. I am interested in this post in responses to this specific editorial.

The hypocrisy on the right is as obvious as the hypocrisy on the left, which is why I refuse to identify with either.

As far the Wall Street Journal editorial page being part of the issue-- Ad hominem comments hardly further the discussion. What I am looking for are responses of agreement or disagreement with the substance of the argument. Ad hominem responses are not intellectually rigorous and all too easy to put forward. Nothing you have written responds to the substance of her argument.

Mark, I am not sure how the President being an "egghead" is the issue. I think what Noonan is getting at is less that and more of his particular posture of relying too much on those who are "credentialed," when the folks "on the front lines" are the people he should be paying attention to.

Thanks, guys... you're further reflections are welcome.

bthomas said...

Noonan finally figures it out? What took her so long? In past years she has not been so slow on the uptake. Come to think of it, the rest of the msm still seems to be pretending that the emperor actually has new cloths.

One distinct difference between Carter and Obama. Carter is a man whose consistent character, integrity and conduct in both public and private has with good reason been affirmed by friend and foe alike. The same can not be said of Obama.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Hi BT... thanks for your thoughts... I'm not so sure it has been an issue that Noonan has been slow on the uptake. I think she rightfully wants to give a new president time to settle and get his "sea legs" so-to-speak. She is a conservative, so she certainly will be more critical of a Democratic president, but criticism should be leveled carefully. I believe there are things that any president can be judged on rather quickly, and other things on which more time is needed. I personally appreciate criticism of anyone from the left and from the right when it attempts to be fair and judicious as opposed to name calling and resorting to demagoguery as people like Keith Olbermann and Sean Hannity do quite regularly.

Agree or disagree with her, I think she is one of those pundits who, while not hiding her politics, nevertheless attempts to mount an argument that is thought-provoking. We need more of such persons on the right and on the left, instead of nonsense we see each weekday evening on FOX News and MSNBC.

cspogue said...

The point is that people aren't published on the WSJ Opinion Page if they write nice things about Democrats and only infrequently if they write not-so-nice things about Republicans. The link was an example of Noonan's writing after Katrina but before even the right had to admit that Bush really dropped the ball.

Did Obama create the economic crisis? No.

Are the Republicans trying to be "loyal" or just trying to "oppose?" Obviously, opposing even things that they have proposed in the past.

If Obama had pushed BP out of the way, especially when BP was constantly saying that it was a minor spill and would be under control, Joe Barton's apology would be the tip of the iceberg of GOP rhetoric. Let's remember, a caucus of over 100 House Republicans attacked Obama's success in getting BP to set aside $20 billion for the spill as "Chicago-style politics."

When you bought the house while it was on fire, it is rather difficult to make a final decision about your home improvement skills. Noonan's editorial is just another example of trying to de-legitimize Democrats while extolling Republicans no matter what.

While even a dead clock is right twice a day, I don't believe it is smart to rely on it on a regular basis.

Allan R. Bevere said...

CS... you could say exactly the same kind of thing about the New York Times editorial page that publish only nice things about Democrats and only infrequently write not-so-nice things about them.

So the point is... what's your point?

And as far as relying on the WSJ on a regular basis, we are talking about the editorial page here. The WSJ may lean right and the New York Times may lean left... so what? The point simply is you don't reject an editorial out of hand because the writer publishes for one or the other newspaper. You take the substance of the argument. That takes a lot more intellectual ability than simply saying that someone's views shouldn't be taken seriously because they write for a particular newspaper.

And Noonan does not extol Republicans no matter what. Sure, she is a conservative, so one would expect her to be more critical of Democrats. But as one who reads her editorials regularly, I can tell you she holds nothing back in criticism toward the right when she thinks they are wrong. I only read editorials from people on the left and the right who are not afraid to criticize their own. The fact the you think she is nothing but a Republican cheerleader all the time means that either you do not read her or your partisan left ways blind you to offering fair analysis and critique. My guess is that it is the latter.

cspogue said...

How many columns has Noonan written that have been critical of Republicans in the last two years???

The NYT editiorial page had had David Brooks and also had John Tierney, Bill Kristol and now Russ Douthat who aren't flaming liberals by anyone's definition.

Is there even a token liberal on the WSJ editorial page? We both know the answer is no.

Going to the "substance," what exactly is it? Things were a mess before Obama was elected. There is plenty of hypocrisy from people like Bobby Jindal who is against all government programs except for spending whatever he wants to try to stop the spill whether it would work or not.

It seems more like an exercise in lowering the bar like in 2000 when we just wanted someone more "honest" than Clinton and wound up with Dubya.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Yes, of course, Obama inherited a mess. Noonan says as much if you had read her article with any serious amount of reading comprehension; but let's be clear about the financial mess-- it was a concerted effort on the part of Republicans and Democrats, the financial sector and the private citizens. The Fannie and Freddie sub-prime mortage fiacso was engineered by the Democrats (Barny Frank being the chief architect) during the Clinton Administration. Of course, the Republicans hopped on board and ran with it is well, so they are just as responsible.

Your criticsm of Bobby Jindal is overly simplistic. Politicians make decisions all the time about what moneys they should take and not take. I do not know of anyone, even the most fiscally hawkish, who believe that government moneys never can help. Obviously, the cost of this is something that states alone cannot bear. So to call Jindal a hypocrite because he doesn't want government money for Project A but not Project B can only be made by a political partisan who does not want the facts to get in the way of his own self-contained little world.

That, of course, does not mean that Jindal is completely above criticism, but frankly, I think he is exercising the kind of competent executive ability that I have yet to see from the President in a year and a half. There are certain policies of President Obama's that I like and certain others that I do not; but he has failed to show me that he has the kinds of abilities that anyone in an executive office should have to function well. Of course, he can grow into the job, and hopefully he will.

And one thing a competent executive does not do is always blame his predecessor for his woes. Most Americans know what he inherited, but after a year-and-a-half it is time to stop whining.

cspogue said...

One person's "reading comprehension" is another's "reading with blinders", I guess.

Most people figure that the financial system wouldn't have blown up if not for eight years of not merely deregulation but increased incentives to risk federally-insured deposits.

Did you listen to Bobby Jindal's response to the State of the Union??? He was against everything and is only in favor of money that he wants. That is simply hypocrisy. But, he is another representative of a long line of politicians that want everyone else's spending cut. It is easier to be a competent executive when the disaster is slow-moving yet you get points for blaming everybody else. What is truly incredible is that Jindal is against any moratorium on deep-water drilling.

Bush spent his entire presidency blaming Clinton for all his problems. Reagan and Bush I blamed Jimmy Carter for all of theirs. I don't recall Noonan telling Dick Cheney to sit down and shut up while Cheney was attacking Obama for his efforts to fix the mess that Bush and Cheney left for him.

Noonan is just trying to "Carterize" Obama.

Allan R. Bevere said...

"Bush spent his entire presidency blaming Clinton for all his problems. Reagan and Bush I blamed Jimmy Carter for all of theirs."

Simply not true.

cspogue said...

Bush's people constantly blamed Clinton for 9/11.

Carter was constantly attacked even at the 1984 and 1988 GOP Conventions.

Since Noonan acknowledges that the spill isn't Obama's fault and the NYT finally printed the truth behind Jindal's puffery, then why wouldn't Noonan encourage us to rally around the flag instead of puffing up Hillary for 2012???

Ted M. Gossard said...

I think it's very strange but so human that Americans now fault Obama for the economic problems, when his predecessor has arguably more responsibility for having gotten us into this mess.