All the President's Women and Men
Among the key responsibilities of a president is choosing highly capable officials to steer the nation's course wisely. President Obama has failed in this duty. Romney declared during the debate that Obama only picks losers regarding green energy boondoggles; the same pattern holds true when it comes to picking people to run the nation. His picks span the spectrum from the incompetent to the dismal.
Recently, I was struck by the tone and gist of a column by New York Times liberal columnist (but I repeat myself) Roger Cohen. His piece, "Obama's Team of Idolizers," made mincemeat of Barack Obama's campaign claim that he would assemble a Cabinet that would resemble the stellar cast of characters that became Abraham Lincoln's "Team of Rivals." Four years later, Cohen was so critical of their performance that he dismissed them as having been chosen for their willingness to serve as a "coterie of idolizers."
Given the debacle or Libya, this excerpt is particularly relevant and timely:
The Obama inner circle remains a group of tough political tacticians: David Axelrod, David Plouffe and Valerie Jarrett. The White House national security team does not boast a single name of strategic stature. Anyone outside Washington would be hard pressed to name one.
On Egypt, he toyed with preserving Mubarak ad interim before the tide became irreversible. On Syria, he has in essence dithered. On Afghanistan, domestic politics dictated the agenda, at a cost in American lives.
Subsequently, we have had the massacre in Benghazi and the exposure of multiple failings by the White House, the State Department, or the intelligence community, one or all of whom ignored warnings and rejected pleas for more security. People were asleep at the switch (or, in the case of President Obama, busy fundraising, ignoring the duty to hear daily intelligence briefings, discussing the merits of various hot peppers or dishing with the Pimp with the Limp); people also died.
While a mother wants to know how and why her only son was killed (see "I want to know what happened to my son"), Barack Obama avoids any questions involving Libya and instead of talking with a grieving mother, talks sports on a radio show in Ohio (see "Obama: I'm a Professional Ohio State Cheerleader"). And the media fashions an image of him as being the empathetic, likeable candidate.
But this was just the latest in a series of failings by various members of the Obama entourage.
Their foibles can serve as epitaphs for a failed presidency.
Vice President Joe Biden
Here we have the Gaffe-Master, America's favorite punch line; a supposed foreign policy guru who has a long history of making the wrong calls; a sheriff of the stimulus boondoggle, who went AWOL as hundreds of billions of dollars was spent and, in many cases, wasted; and a man who has no problem spouting falsehoods and remaking Obama's policies on the fly. He is the Joker.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Smart diplomacy that has led to distancing from allies (Israel), betrayal of allies (the Czech Republic and Poland, regarding the stationing of anti-missile missiles in their nations to serve as a defense against Iranian nuclear missiles); dissing of allies (primarily the British -- see the symbolic return of the Churchill bust, siding with Argentina over the Falklands); trying to sabotage the democratization of allies (Honduras); turning down pleas by potential allies to help overthrow theocratic, dictatorial, and dangerous regimes (Iranian Green Protesters to Obama: Are You With Us or With Them; they got their answer soon enough, and it was not want they were hoping to hear).
The so-called smart diplomacy led to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians being less likely than before the Obama presidency, an Iranian nuclear bomb being more likely, the Muslim Brotherhood on the march throughout the Arab world, the Saudi royal family feeling shafted by Barack Obama, and America's reputation in many nations of the Muslim world being lower than it was when George Bush left office.
Ah...the fruits of smart diplomacy.
Then there is the Russian reset, which got off to a wrong start when "smart" diplomats in Clinton's own department failed to even find the right Russian translation for "reset" when handing over that ridiculous "reset" box with the red button. That box became a symbol of incompetency and, later, naiveté. Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Putin regime has measured the man in the Oval Office and is not impressed. The failure of the Russian reset has been made manifest in the closing of the USAID office in Russia; the cancelation of the Nunn-Lugar Threat Reduction program; stiff-arming at the U.N. Security Council as Putin protects his clients in Syria and Iran, while funneling arms to them; and many other Russian bear hugs of neighboring republics that used to be part of the Soviet Union and that Putin intends to bend to his will.
America's ambassador to the United Nations. She is the maestro behind America's rejoining the execrable U.N. Human Rights Council -- a taxpayer-funded body dedicated to regularly condemning Israel while periodically (for balance's sake) taking a swipe at America (for, among other criticism, its racism). Susan Rice also gave a tongue-lashing to Israel in a way no U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has ever done before; she refused to be in the room when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of the genocide facing Israel should Iran become a nuclear power. She must be angling to become Obama's choice for secretary of state in a second term. Richard Grenell, spokesman for the last four U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations, cited a study regarding Rice's work performance when he characterized her as being "wildly inattentive."
Now she has apparently served willingly as the sacrificial lamb to promote false stories regarding the Benghazi disaster; the buck with Barack Obama always stops on someone else's desk.
Laxity seems to be a job requirement for people hoping to win jobs in the Obama administration. To wit:
What words are conjured up when one thinks of Eric Holder? Throwing out an easy win in the voter intimidation case commonly known as the New Black Panther Party scandal? The Fast and the Furious Fiasco -- at best, he, too, was "wildly inattentive" regarding a lethal program being run by his underlings. At worst, he was implicated in the massive failure of the program that led to Americans and a large number of Mexicans being murdered. We may never know. Barack Obama invoked executive privilege in a way it has never been invoked before in order to cloak and protect Holder from his own failures (ironically, as shown below, Holder has the temerity to call Americans "cowards").
Holder has also promoted lawyers who have defended terrorists to key roles at the Department of Justice and turned the Civil Rights Division into a witch-hunting group that sees racism everywhere -- a reflection of Holder's own views, perhaps, since he has derogatorily depicted America as a "nation of cowards" on race and has declared that minorities have not even begun to reap what they are entitled to when it comes to affirmative action and other benefits. Holder also investigated and threatened prosecution of Americans involved in questioning terrorists and wanted to try terror suspects under the American criminal system (and in New York City, in the case of 9/11 terror mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed). His policies led to the early Mirandizing of the so-called Underwear Bomber that potentially led to the loss of valuable intelligence that would have been gathered before the Underwear Bomber was informed of the rights that Holder has given him.
Barack Obama has found one way to save money: he has gutted NASA. Instead of seeing his role as designed to protect the program and its employees, NASA administrator Charles Bolden sees his role as improving relations between America's space exploration program and the Muslim world. Outreach to the stars has become outreach to the crescent moon. This was not what Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson had in mind.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper also seems to want to curry favor with the Muslim world. He dismissed concerns regarding the Muslim Brotherhood by characterizing them as being mostly secular. One would prefer that America's key official, responsible for marshaling the findings of all the intelligence agencies of the federal government and summarizing them for our decision-makers, had a better grasp of reality. At least Clapper is far better than Charles Freeman, the man whom Obama originally wanted to appoint to the post until a firestorm of criticism (regarding anti-Semitism, his chumminess with the Saudis, his laboring on behalf of China) forced Freeman to withdraw from his nomination.
The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has been in charge of the federalized and heavily criticized Transportation Security Administration, those wonderful and courteous people behind the pat-down program. Similar to others on the Obama team, she has made great use of the thesaurus (far more popular than the Constitution among Obama officials). Hence, terror attacks became "man-caused disasters." (Isn't it important to be able to name an enemy? Will we call terrorists "freedom-fighters" in a second term?) Napolitano downgrades threats from Islamic terrorism but heightened concerns regarding home-grown right-wing extremism. Her department riled returning veterans by depicting them as peculiarly susceptible to becoming terrorists.
Obama's treasury secretary could not figure out how to honestly or competently file his tax returns and was forced to file amended returns and pay back taxes and interest after Obama nominated him for his post. Shouldn't the treasury secretary be held to at least some minimal standards? One can still recall his bumbling performance before Congress in 2009 as the financial system shuddered (not a vote of confidence when the equity markets plummeted as he stammered out responses); he has barely been visible in the last couple of years, as American economic policy seems increasingly formulated by the Federal Reserve. As the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes recently wrote, Obama and his team did not save us. Ben Bernanke deserves the credit (and the blame should his grand experiment go awry).
Valerie Jarrett is widely considered the person Barack Obama relies upon the most when making decisions and formulating policy. She and the Obamas go back decades. She introduced the couple and has been tied to them ever since.
Her official title is "senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement," but, as Edward Klein notes in The Amateur (his bestselling book on Barack Obama), that title "doesn't begin to do justice to her unrivaled status in the White House." Chicagoans who were familiar with her career (wrapped up in Cook County crony capitalism) were aghast at the prominent role she was given at the White House, given her sparse real-world accomplishments and limited experience.
Nevertheless, she is Obama's key aide. She has also been portrayed by Matthew Continetti as "the Worst White House Aide" for her manifold failures and consistently poor advice while in the White House.
What Valerie Jarrett does best is represent the Obama administration in microcosm. She embodies its insularity, its cronyism, its cluelessness.
Jarrett pushed for the contraception and abortifacient mandates read into ObamaCare after its passage, an interpretation that offended many people. She counseled against the killing of Osama bin Laden. And those are just two examples from a litany of failure -- but in Obama's Washington, failure is not penalized, perhaps because it would reflect poorly on Obama.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu boasted that his goal was to figure out "how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe" -- this when the economy was struggling even more than it is now and people were anxiety-ridden while paying their bills. His department has overseen the green energy schemes whose now empty factories and labs litter the landscape while their bankruptcies clog the courts. Under his "leadership," 80 percent of Department of Energy loans went to Obama donors. Perhaps his department should relocate to Cook County, where such corruption is prevalent and widely ignored as the fiscal equivalent of "white noise."
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius also pushed for the contraception and abortifacient mandates that violate the religious freedom of the Catholic church (she has been admonished by the Catholic church not to seek communion because of her actions). Sebelius, in a legally dubious move that is being challenged by Congress, opened the door to waiving the work requirements that were fundamental to the welfare reform passed during the Clinton years; she also used her "waiver" authority under ObamaCare to exempt many unions (and businesses that all too often happened to be located in Nancy Pelosi's district) from the law's onerous requirements. Recently, she violated the Hatch Act that prohibits campaigning in an official capacity. The White House announced she won't be punished (surprise -- Obama hands out Get Out of Jail Free Cards to allies).
Labor Secretary Hilda Solis suspended rules requiring union leaders to report conflicts of interest to their members and has issued a slew of rules and regulatory "interpretations" to benefit unions. She appeared before the AFL-CIO's convention and declared that she was "proud and humbled to be your humble servant as labor secretary." That was not part of the oath she swore when she became labor secretary.
The list goes on and on. Take Van Jones, whose radicalism was so extreme that he was compelled to resign, and Al Armendariz, the EPA official who was forced to resign when video surfaced of him boasting of plans to crucify oil and gas companies. See also any number of officials at the Environmental Protection Agency -- including EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, who look at rules and regulations as "just words" (as Obama might say) that can be stretched in any way possible to win the administration's war on carbon. And these say nothing of the numberless other bureaucrats appointed in the last four years determined to fundamentally "transform" America.
The country's recovery, despite record low interest rates and record, if not reckless, dollar-printing, is the weakest in American history. In a marked "departure from history, his cabinet has almost no private sector experience[,]" wrote Forbes columnist Michael Cembalist at a time when our nation needed such people in leadership.
But Obama does not choose key officials based on merit.
Perhaps he chooses them because of personal loyalty (he was warned by experienced Washington hands to leave his Chicago friends behind, but he failed to heed their advice -- one of his chief foibles), political calculation (to appeal to various demographics), to serve the needs of various special interest groups that have captured the Democratic Party (see Jay Cost's superb new book Spoiled Rotten: How The Politics of Patronage Corrupted the Once Noble Democratic Party and Now Threatens the American Republic), or to reciprocate support given to his campaign.
However, Obama's choices to help America navigate through our time of trouble have not served us well. The people in these offices are our servants, not his.
And it is time for a change.
America deserves better.