Tag: Peter Wehner

The New Obama Narrative: Epic Incompetence (Peter Wehner)

The New Obama Narrative: Epic Incompetence – Peter Wehner


The last eight months have battered the Obama administration. From the botched rollout of the health-care website to the VA scandal, events are now cementing certain impressions about Mr. Obama. Among the most damaging is this: He is unusually, even epically, incompetent. That is not news to some of us, but it seems to be a conclusion more and more people are drawing.

The emerging narrative of Barack Obama, the one that actually comports to reality, is that he is a rare political talent but a disaster when it comes to actually governing. The list of his failures is nothing short of staggering, from shovel-ready jobs that weren’t so shovel ready to the failures of healthcare.gov to the VA debacle. But it also includes the president’s failure to tame the debt, lower poverty, decrease income inequality, and increase job creation. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay and didn’t. His administration promised to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed before a civilian jury in New York but they were forced to retreat because of outrage in his own party. Early on in his administration Mr. Obama put his prestige on the line to secure the Olympics for Chicago in 2016 and he failed.

Overseas the range of Obama’s failures include the Russian “reset” and Syrian “red lines” to Iran’s Green Revolution, the Egyptian overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, and Libya post-Gaddafi. The first American ambassador since the 1970s was murdered after requests for greater security for the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi were denied. (For a comprehensive overview of President Obama’s failures in the Middle East, see this outstanding essay by Abe Greenwald.) The president has strained relations with nations extending from Canada to Germany, from Israel to Afghanistan to Poland and the Czech Republic to many others. All from a man who promised to heal the planet and slow the rise of the oceans.

But that’s not all. The White House response to everything from the VA and IRS scandals to the seizure of AP phone records by the Department of Justice is that it learned about them from press reports. More and more Mr. Obama speaks as if he’s a passive actor, a bystander in his own administration, an MSNBC commentator speaking about events he has no real control over. We saw that earlier today, when the president, in trying to address the public’s growing outrage at what’s happening at the VA, insisted he “will not stand for it” and “will not tolerate” what he has stood for and tolerated for almost six years. His anger at what’s happening to our veterans seems to have coincided with the political damage it is now causing him.

We’ve learned the hard way that Mr. Obama’s skill sets are far more oriented toward community organizing than they are to governing. On every front, he is overmatched by events. It’s painful to watch a man who is so obviously in over his head. And more and more Americans are suffering because of it.

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Obama Demagoguery Supplemented By A Touch Of Cruelty (Peter Wehner)

Obama Demagoguery Supplemented By A Touch Of Cruelty – Peter Wehner

In the Great Sequestration Debate, here’s what we know: (a) The president has patrimony of an idea he now characterizes as a brutal and senseless assault on America. (b) The president and his then-chief of staff, Jack Lew, misled the public about their role in giving birth to the sequester idea. (c) House Republicans have twice passed legislation to avoid the sequester cuts with carefully targeted ones, but Senate Democrats refused to act. (d) Mr. Obama has brushed off a Republican plan to give him flexibility to allocate the $85 billion in spending cuts, which makes no sense if the president wants to replace reckless cuts with responsible ones.

Whatever one thinks about the merits of cutting $85 billion out of an almost $3.6 trillion budget, the effort to portray the cuts as ushering in days of tribulation, distress and anguish, of trouble and ruin, of darkness and gloom is – how to put this? – insane.

If the sequester cuts go into effect, domestic agencies would have to cut 5 percent from their budgets after having received a 17-percent increase during the president’s first term (not counting the more than a quarter-of-a-trillion stimulus bonus). And our budget this fiscal year would still be larger (by some $15 billion) than it was in the last fiscal year.

But what makes this particular episode somewhat different than past ones is that Mr. Obama has supplemented his demagoguery with a touch of cruelty. That is, he has made it clear that he wants to inflict as much harm as possible on Americans in order to make the cuts live up to the hype. The president’s greatest fear is that the sequester cuts will kick in and life will go on. So he’s threatening to pass over wasteful programs in order to target more essential ones.

Emily Holubowich – a Washington health-care lobbyist who leads a coalition of 3,000 nonprofit groups fighting the cuts – gave away the game in her comments to the Washington Post. “The good news is, the world doesn’t end March 2. The bad news is, the world doesn’t end March 2,” Ms. Holubowich said. “The worst-case scenario for us is the sequester hits and nothing bad really happens. And Republicans say: See, that wasn’t so bad” (h/t Charles Krauthammer).

So we have the president determined to administer as much pain as he can on Americans even as he excoriates Republicans for their “meat-cleaver approach” that will “eviscerate” key programs.

It is really quite remarkable, this concoction of willful deceptions, hyperbole, demagoguery, mismanagement, and deliberate harm. And to think that a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Barack Obama promised to put an end to cynicism. Instead he has added massively to it. The harm he is doing to our political culture is very nearly incalculable.

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The Obama Administration’s Ineptness

The Obama Administration’s Ineptness – Peter Wehner

On Sunday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – when asked about why we’re involving ourselves in Libya but not Syria – said this about Bashar Assad: “Many of the Members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer.” For understandable reasons – more about that in a moment– those comments didn’t fly very well. So it was time for a retake.

Yesterday, when asked about her statement at a press conference, Secretary Clinton said, “Well, first, Jay [Solomon], as you rightly pointed out, I referenced opinions of others. That was not speaking either for myself or for the administration.”

As walk backs go, this one was unusually clumsy and obviously untrue. Mrs. Clinton could simply have said her previous comments were wrong and she was revising them. Instead we get a response that no one believes. Of course she was speaking for herself and for the administration; that’s what secretaries of state (as opposed to, say, MSNBC commentators) do.

But what is truly disquieting is what our secretary of state said in the first place. It raises the question: Was she even remotely familiar with Syria’s record under Assad? Just for starters, had she taken the time to read her own State Department’s most recent terrorism report? If she had, she would have found several references to Syria.

For example, in Chapter 1 we read, “Syria … provided political and material support to Hizballah in Lebanon and allowed Iran to resupply this organization with weapons, and provided safe-haven as well as political and other support to a number of designated Palestinian terrorist groups, including HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC).”

In Chapter 2 we learn, “Iran and Syria, both state sponsors of terrorism, continued to play destabilizing roles in the region… Hizballah continued its acquisition of smuggled arms, primarily via Iran and Syria, in violation of UN resolution 1701… HAMAS and Hizballah continued to finance their terrorist activities against Israel primarily through state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Syria.”

And in Chapter 3 we’re told, “Syria has maintained its ties with its strategic ally, and fellow state sponsor of terrorism, Iran.”

The foreign-policy ineptness we’re seeing from the Obama administration is quite striking. Its key players are sending out contradictory messages one after the other. One day Hosni Mubarak’s regime is stable; the next day he has to go. One day Bashar Assad is a reformer; the next day he’s a butcher. The president tells Members of Congress he expects we’ll be actively involved in military action against Libya for days, not weeks; the secretary of defense, when asked how much longer we might be in Libya, says, “I don’t think anybody knows the answer to that.” The president says, Colonel Qaddafi “must step down from power and leave” immediately; the caveat is that his exit can be achieved only through non-military means.

The president is slow to get us involved in Libya, after pressure from the French, the British, the UN, and the Arab League; now that he has, Mr. Obama and his aides cannot stress often enough how eager they are to become uninvolved in Libya. “We didn’t want to get sucked into an operation with uncertainty at the end,” one senior administration official told the New York Times. “In some ways, how it turns out is not on our shoulders.”

On arming the Libyan rebels, the president helpfully tells us, “I’m not ruling it out, but I’m also not ruling it in.” We’re told it’s in America’s interest to involve ourselves in humanitarian military action under certain conditions, but no coherent rationale is provided. Apparently it’s to be done ad hoc, on the fly, based on shifting sentiments. Nor can the administration articulate to the public what our end game in Libya is. According to the most recent Quinnipiac poll, which was concluded Monday evening as President Obama was addressing the nation about Libya, voters say by a margin of 58–29 percent that he has not clearly stated U.S. goals for Libya.

Let’s stipulate that the world is a complicated place, wars are unpredictable, and foreign policy can be difficult to manage. Still, one would hope that even a community organizer could do better than this.

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