Two excellent analyses today that delve into the mystery of what kind of leadership President Obama has demonstrated so far.
The answer is not much at all. His lack of management skills are showing as his administration has lurched from gaffe to gaffe, while demonstrating inexplicable detatchment from detals.
First, Karl Rove:
Nevertheless, this fast start can't overcome a growing sense the administration is winging it on issues large and small.
Take the vetting of cabinet nominees. Mr. Obama's aides ignored a federal investigation of New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson that started last August for a possible pay-for-play scandal. Mr. Richardson had to withdraw after being named to become secretary of commerce.
The administration treated as inconsequential the failure of its choices for Treasury secretary and White House performance officer, as well as its labor secretary-designate's spouse, to pay taxes. It failed to uncover Tom Daschle's problems with more than $102,943 in previously unpaid taxes, penalties and interest -- and once it did, aides assumed Mr. Daschle would be given a pass.
Team Obama promised Gen. Anthony Zinni he'd be ambassador to Iraq, then cut him loose without explanation. After the Bill Richardson fiasco, it romanced Republican Sen. Judd Gregg for commerce secretary -- then ignored his advice on the stimulus and wouldn't trust him with running the department, moving supervision of the Census into the White House. Mr. Gregg withdrew himself from consideration.
Then there is the stimulus itself. Mr. Obama's economic team met with congressional leaders in December to green light a bill costing up to $850 billion. But they described less than $200 billion of what they wanted in the envelope.
The administration outsourced writing the monstrosity while using White House pollsters to help the Democrats sharpen the message.
Tony Blankley makes the same points about vetting and outsourcing while getting to the nub of the matter:
President Obama's performance at the Gitmo executive order, provided brief but revealing insight into the president's personal involvement in vital decision making. He had campaigned hard on closing Gitmo. His first public signing as president was that executive order to close it down. The central issue of Gitmo's closing was and is: What do we do with the dangerous inmates? President Bush kept it open primarily because his administration couldn't figure out an answer to that question.
Thus, it was breathtaking that at the signing ceremony, President Obama didn't know how -- or even whether -- his executive order was dealing with this central quandary.
President Obama: "And we then provide, uh, the process whereby Guantanamo will be closed, uh, no later than one year from now. We will be, uh. ... Is there a separate, uh, executive order, Greg, with respect to how we're going to dispose of the detainees? Is that, uh, written?"
White House counsel Greg Craig: "We'll set up a process."
To be at the signing ceremony and not know what he was ordering done with the terrorist inmates is a level of ignorance about equivalent to being a groom at the altar in a wedding ceremony and asking who it is you are marrying.
Can you imagine any Republican of the last 60 years turning to his counsel in the middle of a signing ceremony and asking a question like that?
These may indeed simply reflect Obama trying to get his feet under him to face the challenges confronting the nation. But it also may point to a man out of his depth, with no idea how to turn his lofty rhetoric into hard headed government policy.
Let's hope it's the former and we see an improvement soon. Otherwise, we will have at the helm of the ship of state someone who not only doesn't know what direction to take us but is incapable of steering the boat.
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky