Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bumbles and Fumbles

Joe Klein at Time is growing impatient. I suspect that much of the rest of the liberal media is also growing impatient, and not a little nervous. They've invested an enormous amount of their own credibility and also the credibility of liberalism itself in the Obama administration. If it fails not only would millions of people suffer economically, not only would there be a failed liberal president, but the whole liberal ideal of big government would be discredited. Another concern, by no means to be minimized, is that if the first black president, unlike the first black baseball player, turns out to be a mediocrity it'll dash the hopes of all who saw in him the political version of Jackie Robinson.

So liberals are getting impatient waiting for signs of success, indications that this administration knows what it's doing and is not just a bunch of bumbling incompetents.

Klein, who was a loyal Democratic foot-soldier and cheer-leader for each of Mr. Obama's last two campaigns, is not shy about telling us that his patience is wearing thin:
Let me try to understand this: the key incentive for small businesses to support Obamacare was that they would be able to shop for the best deals in health care superstores — called exchanges. The Administration has had three years to set up these exchanges. It has failed to do so.

This is a really bad sign. There will be those who argue that it’s not the Administration’s fault. It’s the fault of the 33 states that have refused to set up their own exchanges. Nonsense. Where was the contingency planning? ....

[T]he Obama Administration has announced that it won’t have the exchanges ready in time, that small businesses will be offered one choice for the time being — for a year, at least. No doubt, small-business owners will be skeptical of the Obama Administration’s belief in the efficacy of the market system to produce lower prices through competition. That was supposed to be the point of this plan.

[W]e are now seeing weekly examples of this Administration’s inability to govern. Just a few weeks ago, I reported on the failure of the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs to come up with a unified electronic health care records system. There has also been the studied inattention to the myriad ineffective job-training programs scattered through the bureaucracy. There have been the oblique and belated efforts to reform Head Start, a $7 billion program that a study conducted by its own bureaucracy — the Department of Health and Human Services — has found nearly worthless. The list is endless.

Yes, the President has faced a terrible economic crisis — and he has done well to limit the damage. He has also succeeded in avoiding disasters overseas. But, as a Democrat — as someone who believes in activist government — he has a vested interest in seeing that federal programs actually work efficiently. I don’t see much evidence that this is anywhere near the top of his priorities.
Perhaps Mr. Obama's failure to make federal programs run efficiently is due to the fact that it's in the nature of government programs administered by bureaucracies to be ineffective, costly, and wasteful, and no politician, no matter how gifted, can change that. Or perhaps it's due to the fact that Mr. Obama just isn't all that interested in devoting the time and effort it takes to get things right in Washington when it would mean fewer rounds on the golf course, fewer days vacationing in exotic climes at taxpayer expense, or fewer opportunities to schmooze with adoring celebrities.

In any case, there've been those who long predicted what Klein is just now beginning to see. We were warned, for instance, two years before it passed that Obamacare was unworkable. We were told that Mr. Obama's misbegotten green energy subsidies were little more than paybacks to his political supporters. We could see, if we cared to, that the Obama stimulus was in large part a reward to labor unions for their support, and it was evident before 2008 that Mr. Obama possessed no significant qualifications for the office to which he has since risen.

We were repeatedly told all of this, the evidence was plain for all to discern, but Mr. Obama wielded several enormous advantages. He had that which is most compelling for the young, the uninformed, and the apathetic - he had charisma and style. Moreover, he offered the electorate the opportunity to share in the making of history by voting into the White House the first black president. To voters who couldn't care less about the details of the federal deficit or the Affordable Care and Protection Act the combination of personal magnetism and racial progress that Barack Obama embodied was irresistible.

Now, however, there are signs of growing concern among liberals that perhaps they've been seduced by a very charming man who was never what they had hoped he was. Some of them are beginning to apprehend that he is not the post-racial intellectual colossus, bestriding a world that would be healed just by virtue of his very presence, that they had envisioned him to be. He's really just a guy whose primary experience and qualification was organizing people in the streets of Chicago to demand a better deal from their city government. His rise to the highest office in the land is reminiscent of the Chauncy Gardener character in the movie Being There, and some liberals are growing alarmed that they didn't realize this before now.

Klein can complain about the Obama administration's incompetence, he can worry that it's fumbling the ball, but he has no one to blame for this but people like himself who adjured the rest of us in 2008 and 2012 not to look at the man's qualifications or record but to focus instead on his potential. That was bad advice for the nation back then, and it may wind up setting the cause of liberal/progressivism back a couple of decades - at least among those who are paying the bills in this country, if not among those who are living off the bill-payers.