Did you know that Obama actually thinks? More than that, did you know that Obama thinks that the job of the President of the United States is to think?
H/t my ol’ friend Sol!
Barack Obama explains his job.
By JAMES TARANTO - Wall St. Journal – May 28, 2010
What exactly is the job of the president of the United States? Let’s ask the man who currently holds that position, Barack Obama:
Obama’s job description is fascinating. He has been depicted as a proponent of “activist government,” but this may be a bum rap. Now he tells us he thinks that if he somehow gets people to think about him and how much he’s thinking about what he thinks they think he should be thinking about, his job is done.
Which raises only two questions: First, if the requirements of his job are so modest, why is he still having trouble meeting them? Second, couldn’t all this cogitation be done at a cost of less than $3.5 trillion a year?
Are we being too literal here? If we are, then so is the pro-Obama New York Times, whose coverage of the press conference at which the president made the above statement likewise emphasizes his thought processes. Here’s how it begins:
President Obama uttered three words on Thursday that many of his 43 predecessors twisted themselves into knots trying with varying degrees of success to avoid: “I was wrong.”
He strode into the East Room to mount a robust defense of his handling of the largest oil spill in American history, reassuring the nation that he was in charge and would do “whatever is necessary” to stop and clean up the BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico. But by the time he walked out an hour later, he had balanced that with a fairly unusual presidential self-critique.
He was wrong, he said, to assume that oil companies were prepared for the worst as he tried to expand offshore drilling. His team did not move with “sufficient urgency” to reform regulation of the industry. In dealing with BP, his administration “should have pushed them sooner” to provide images of the leak, and “it took too long for us” to measure the size of the spill.
Actually, that’s not a self-critique at all, but classic passive-aggressive behavior: I’m sorry. I was wrong. I should never have trusted you.
Earlier this week, “one who was there” told the Washington Post that in an Oval Office meeting, Obama commanded: “Plug the damn hole.” This leak–of the information, that is, not the oil–shows that Obama is doing what he conceives to be his job, namely trying to persuade people that he is thinking about the spill.
But for those who would actually like to see the damn hole plugged, the president looks impotent and irrelevant–so much so that this response from the Ayn Rand Center is a model of common sense and clarity:
That’s the politician’s answer to every intractable problem: give orders, issue threats, and wait for obedience. But the creative human mind cannot take orders like that. Notice I didn’t say, “refuses to take orders.” I said, “cannot take orders.”
By that I mean, the task of plugging a leak 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico is an engineering feat. BP’s acknowledged role in causing the leak does not alter the fact that careful study, creative thought, and the exacting deployment of technical and mechanical skills over long distances are all necessary in order to fix the leak. No amount of jaw clenching or bug-eyed threats from politicians can bring the solution one inch closer to reality. The human mind does not operate by force from outside. . . .
Obama’s petulant outburst brings to mind a scene from Atlas Shrugged featuring Kip Chalmers, a politician who is traveling by train from Washington, D.C., to California, where he’s running for office. When the train’s diesel engine is destroyed by accidentally running over a split rail, Chalmers issues furious demands, expecting they will result in instant technical solutions:
” ‘God damn these railroad people!’ said Kip Chalmers. ‘They’re doing it on purpose. They want to ruin my campaign. I can’t miss that rally! For Christ’s sake, Lester, do something!’ “
Even National Public Radio notes that “the public seems to understand that only BP, not the federal government, can plug the hole.”
After Katrina, liberals claimed that the Bush administration had failed in its response because conservatives “don’t believe in government.” The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne now argues that the Obama administration has failed in its response to the oil spill because . . . conservatives don’t believe in government! Seriously:
“Deregulation” is wonderful until we discover what happens when regulations aren’t issued or enforced. Everyone is a capitalist until a private company blunders. Then everyone starts talking like a socialist, presuming that the government can put things right because they see it as being just as big and powerful as its Tea Party critics claim it is.
But the truth is that we have disempowered government and handed vast responsibilities over to a private sector that will never see protecting the public interest as its primary task. The sludge in the gulf is, finally, the product of our own contradictions.
For a real contradiction, though, consider this detail from the Washington Post report on yesterday’s press conference:
At one point, Obama said he did not know whether Elizabeth Birnbaum–the director of the Minerals Management Service he blamed for allowing the oil industry to overrule environmental and safety concerns–had resigned or been fired hours before.
It is unreasonable to expect the government to be omnicompetent. It is entirely reasonable to expect the president to be competent to manage his own administration.