Whether or not you support President Obama's policies, one thing is becoming increasingly obvious: He simply lacks competence. The best indicator of this is his ineffectiveness in accomplishing any of his own objectives. His first year in office resembles the career of a quarterback who never completes a pass. His list of failures is all too familiar -- health care reform, closing Guantánamo, cap-and-trade, and so on. He has failed to accomplish any of his self-identified top priorities. Other than getting himself elected, he appears to have a very limited range of abilities.
For conservatives, the president's incompetence is a mixed blessing. Conservatives are breathing sighs of relief that health care reform and cap-and-trade have crashed and burned. For his supporters, his ineffectiveness must be painful to watch.
Nevertheless, the fact that the most powerful man in the world is incompetent does not make for a good situation. Unfortunately, he is in a position to do major damage, and he has, in fact, already done so. His poorly conceived economic policies have unnecessarily prolonged and deepened the recession. His foreign policy missteps have jeopardized our national security.
The frequency of the apologies and backtracks the president and his cabinet have had to make demonstrates that they don't seem to think before they speak or act. The president likes to make promises but seems to have no serious intention to actually deliver on them. Almost immediately after taking office, he promised to close Guantánamo. Doing so is obviously a much more complicated and difficult undertaking than he envisioned. As George H. W. Bush discovered, there's no such thing as a free promise. Bush's broken promise not to raise taxes cost him a second term.
Mr. Obama is also ineffective in helping fellow Democrats win elections. Unless his success rate improves, he will earn the title of "the biggest loser." Democrat candidates this year may well be telling him "thanks but no thanks."
The president is not a good strategist. He is not a good judge of probabilities. He has a tendency to pick fights he has little or no chance of winning. It almost appears that he likes losing.
Competence is mainly an issue for leaders of democratic countries. A dictator does not necessarily need to worry about it. A dictator gets things done through brute force, which is also the way he maintains his power. The citizenry pays a price for his incompetence, but the dictator himself does not.
Mr. Obama has surrounded himself with similarly incompetent personnel. Ann Coulter has described Joe Biden as "Obama's assassination insurance." A president's press secretary is his public spokesman and primary interface with the press. You have to wonder what possessed Obama to hire someone like Robert Gibbs for that position. Mr. Gibbs is not an impressive persona, to put it mildly. Numerous other cabinet members have also been an embarrassment.
Most of Mr. Obama's supporters have yet to admit that he is incompetent. It's becoming increasingly obvious, however, and they can't be happy with his lack of results. The evidence of his incompetence is bound to accumulate further, and denial will be increasingly hard to maintain.
If anyone is surprised by Mr. Obama's incompetence, you have to wonder why. When he was running for the presidency, on what basis would anyone have assumed that he was competent? He had about the thinnest resume of anyone who had ever run for the office, with virtually zero executive experience. He really was the "hope" candidate, elected by voters relying on hope rather than evidence or common sense.
Election results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts demonstrate that many voters are suffering from buyer's remorse. Unfortunately, they have three years left on an unbreakable purchase contract.
What is the probability that Mr. Obama will "grow in office" and develop competence? It's not high. After the president gratuitously trashed his city for the second time, the mayor of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman, observed that "the president is a real slow learner."
Mr. Obama seems to be immune to feedback. In fact, he brags about his stubbornness and refusal to give up on Obamacare in the face of overwhelming public disapproval and the high cost of prolonging a hopeless endeavor. The change candidate is himself unwilling to change.
Although Mr. Obama's incompetence will persist, other important corrective steps are already underway. Conservatives are more energized and motivated now than perhaps at any time in memory. We may very well see a Democrat electoral bloodbath in November. Judging from how much fun Scott Brown's victory was for conservatives, it could be a time to cherish.
Ron Ross Ph.D. is an economist and author of The Unbeatable Market.