The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House
By Ed Lasky
Edward Klein's new book on Barack Obama, The Amateur: Barack Obama in the White House, is a withering portrayal of a radical adrift, in over his head, drowning in his own incompetency -- while being weighed down by a small circle of "advisers" who are compounding the problem of the Amateur in the White House.
Klein's book begins with a talisman-like quote uttered by Barack Obama when his recently appointed Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner tried to boost Obama's ego by telling him, "Your legacy is going to be preventing the second Great Depression." To which Barack Obama responded, "That's not enough for me."
As all of America knows by now, Obama has aggressively sought to "fundamentally transform" America -- one of the few promises he has kept from the days of 2008. Five trillion dollars of borrowing, ObamaCare passed over the objections of the majority of Americans through legislative legerdemain and special deals made with resistant politicians, failed stimulus, green programs failing left and right as taxpayers are left holding the bag, a recovery that is the most anemic on record, an America that has been sundered by the man who promises to unite us, America weaker abroad and at home -- yes, America has been fundamentally transformed. Mission Accomplished.
But how and why did Obama succeed in such a catastrophic way? That is the question that Klein successfully answers in his extremely readable and enjoyable book, with enough spicy details to satisfy the craving of anyone interested in how President Obama and those closest to him have driven us to the condition we find ourselves in as we approach November.
One of the motifs that runs throughout the book is Barack Obama's sheer level of incompetency. He has the fatal conceit of many politicians: an overweening ego. That may be a prerequisite for politicians and leaders, but when it is unleavened by a willingness to consider the views of others, it becomes a fatal conceit. And Obama has that trait in abundance.
Obama doesn't know how to be president. He doesn't know how the world works. He's incompetent. He's...he's...Barack Obama's an amateur.
But Klein does not rest there. He delves into associates from Obama's career in Cook County politics, his stint as a state senator, and his rise to the United States Senate. There is a common pattern: Obama likes to campaign, but once he is elected and actually starts working, his interest flags, and he starts looking for the next "big thing" -- electorally speaking. He had few if any accomplishments or professional standing in any of his previous positions. Even when he served as a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, he avoided any encounters with other faculty who enjoyed discussing the law. His reluctance to engage them is revealing in and of itself, suggesting he had a reason for his lack of confidence.
His disdain toward working with others is manifest. He has gained a reputation over the last few years as being cold and distant, refusing to engage, as have other presidents, in the give-and-take of politics, in the social niceties that help grease the wheels in Washington. Liberal Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen recently advised him to read Robert Caro's newest volume on the life of Lyndon Johnson as a primer on how to be president. Johnson, of course, was a master at pulling levers of power, but he also knew how to persuade individual politicians on both sides of the aisle to work with him on legislation. But, of course, LBJ also had the common touch and, having risen from humble beginnings, never considered it beneath him to work with those underneath him. Not so Barack Obama. He complained to foreign leaders that he had to waste time talking with "congressmen from Palookaville." At another time, he switched locales and said he was tired of dealing with people from "Podunk."
His campaign trail comments regarding small-town America as being populated by "bitter" people who cling to guns and Bibles was not a one-off. They are reflective of his views.
But the high and the mighty also come in for the Obama treatment. Klein reveals dismay among former Obama supporters who feel they have been mistreated, maligned, and thrown under the bus. Obama's most generous early donors have been all but ignored; early mentors in the black business community have been sidelined if not completely ditched; people don't hear from him or his staff unless a fundraiser is coming up. But there is more: Caroline Kennedy is angry at the way she and her family were used for campaign purposes in 2008 and then summarily dismissed and stored away like so many movie props have been (the latter is my description).
A few have survived the winnowing process, of course. There is Michelle, who might be described as the living and real-life descendant of Lady Macbeth. The book provides some history of the early days between Barack and Michelle: marked by some tempests, yet also marked by Michelle's overwhelming push for Barack to win power and wealth. Insiders are reluctant to tangle with the First Lady, and with good reason. Michelle, like her husband, has a proclivity to blame others for her husband's failures. Former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs felt her sting when it was revealed that Michelle had complained about life in the White House to the then-first lady of France, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Gibbs acted to control the damage by arranging for the Élysée Palace to issue a denial.
But the response did not come quickly enough for Michelle, and she arranged for Valerie Jarrett -- close to the Obamas for years, and who has an omnipresence in the White House that makes the unelected and unconfirmed czar issue seem trivial -- to deliver a stern rebuke to Gibbs, who counter-attacked. Anyone heard from Robert Gibbs lately?
The role of Valerie Jarrett has prompted much speculation. As Edward Klein notes, she has a mouthful of a title -- senior adviser and assistant to the president for intergovernmental affairs and public engagement -- that "doesn't begin to do justice to her unrivaled status in the White House." Valerie Jarrett apparently has a role in most major decisions: she often appears in meetings the president has with major political leaders from Capitol Hill and with foreign leaders as well. She often stays behind to have private discussions with the president. Obama admitted that he ran every decision by her.
That is worrying since, as Klein notes, Jarrett's own career is not one that would prepare her to assume such a prominent role. Hers is no rags-to-riches story that would give her the "chops" to have such a Svengali-like influence over the president of the United States. She was blessed with a wonderful set of advantages -- descended from a highly regarded political family in Chicago. Jarrett was a force to be reckoned with in the Daley administration and then capitalized on her political connections to land a job heading up a real estate company in Chicago where she oversaw, among other developments, properties that under her company's management degenerated into slums. Business leaders are aghast that she has such a powerful role in the White House. A donor is quoted as saying that not only is Valerie Jarrett a liability, but others in the White House concur with his views. Jarrett has butted heads with Rahm Emanuel, who felt that it was wrong to focus on passing ObamaCare when the economy and jobs should have been higher priorities.
Who won that match? Rahm returned to Chicago and became mayor in 2009.
The roles of Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett cannot be overstated. They are symptomatic of a larger problem in the White House decision-making process (one that I noted in "How Obama Makes Decisions").
Barack Obama, to a greater extent than any modern president, refuses to listen to the views of others or consult with experts and advisers outside his own tight and constricted circle from Cook County. There are many revelations of his faulty decision making uncovered by Klein. Indeed, one of Jarrett's roles is to shield Obama from dealing with people who don't agree with him or who may say something that deflates his ego.
On issue after issue, President Obama remains his insular self, refusing to seek counsel or input from others with more experience.
Critics believe he has made a mess of foreign policy precisely because not only does he have a dearth of experience in this area, but because, under our system, foreign policy is one of the few areas where a president enjoys almost unlimited power. Thus, he is free to formulate his own agenda regardless of the views of others and the damage these policies cause.
Klein concludes the book with doubt that Obama could ever change his approach toward governing and suspicion that his agenda is to impose a vast redistribution scheme upon America that has worked so well in the decaying and disintegrating European Union. He wonders if Republicans are up to the task of pointing out to the public the truth about Obama's agenda, given the overwhelming media bias in favor of Barack Obama.
Klein's book could serve as a roadmap for Republicans.
The Whupping in Wisconsin: Seven Key Conclusions
by Erick Erickson
Hey, we should do this again — one more recall in Wisconsin. Fourth time's the charm. Right? Right?
“Now I know what MSNBC means by lean forward. I leaned forward as I was viewing, watching for signs of possible coronaries live on TV.”
Last night in Wisconsin, Democracy died because Republicans spent a bunch of money and Wisconsin saw record voter turnout levels across the state where they decisively sided with the incumbent Republican Governor against the ongoing childish assault on representative democracy by leftists unhappy with the hand the voters dealt them in 2010. Or something like that.
Remember, the left was perfectly fine with money in politics when they thought Barack Obama was going to raise $1 billion with which he would bludgeon the GOP. Now that it is not happening, money in politics is again evil. It is no coincidence that the left seized on this talking point even before the polls closed. They think it sells well. But it doesn’t. Remember in 2010, they tried to claim the Chamber of Commerce was spending foreign money to help the GOP? Lot of good it did them then.
These are also the same people who once told us the Wisconsin recall was a harbinger of GOP overreach and voter retaliation would ensue. Suddenly, the recall means nothing according to these same people. The Chairwoman of the Democratic Party once called last night a “dry run” for the general election. Heh.
Last night in Wisconsin, despite a disastrous run of exit polling, made more difficult by the dynamics of a recall election, Scott Walker handily beat Tom Barrett. What exit polls suggested would be a close race turned into a romp. The left has resorted to screaming about money in politics. What they cannot reconcile is that, most likely, were Barack Obama and MItt Romney on the ballot tonight as well as the Walker v. Barrett race, Barack Obama would have won despite all the GOP money pouring in.
I maintain that special elections mean very little to general elections. The flawed exit polls were flawed because people who vote in recall elections vote in different ways from general elections. There was a massive union vote in Wisconsin last night. We can conclude that Scott Walker winning big with a big union turnout means even private sector union members hate public sector unions. But we should be careful not to over conclude things based on Wisconsin.
Republicans around the country should take note of that. While I maintain recalls and special elections are not really good indicators of anything beyond the dynamics of those races, there are a few things Wisconsin tells us that do bode ill for President Obama and that are easy to conclude.
The first thing we can conclude is that defense of public sector unions is now a non-starter even in the birthplace of American progressive politics. Union voters voted for Scott Walker. Republicans have a new battle tested issue that sells well even in blue states.
The second thing we can conclude is that the same winning coalition of disaffected independent voters, tea party activists, and Republicans held together in Wisconsin to keep Scott Walker. More importantly, and perhaps most importantly, the demographic shift that saw the Democrats lose their hold over the rustbelt in 2010 has continued to the Democrats’ disadvantage. Couple that shift away from the Democrats with the Republicans’ new found strengths in Appalachia and the Democrats who like to claim Republicans cannot win in New England will have an even harder time winning in the heartland. Both in North Carolina with gay marriage and in Wisconsin with the recall, a real silent majority stood up to be counted and heard.
For all the Democrats’ talk about their growing strength in the west, it is still going to take several decades for them to make up the votes lost in the rust belt and Appalachia. Wisconsin’s recall election shows that the demographic trends against the Democrats are starting to lock in, including losing blue collar white voters and even a number of private sector union workers. As my friend Dan Gainor pointed out on twitter, Scott Walker won by a larger margin last night than Barack Obama did against John McCain nationally. Nonetheless, some in the media would have you believe Walker only barely got by.
The third thing we can conclude from Wisconsin is that the Republican Party’s use of technology in its GOTV efforts really paid off. We should be thanking the Democrats for giving us an opportunity for a live test of our new GOTV tools and ground game. Scott Walker’s thumping of Tom Barrett showed the GOP, in a blue state, has the ability to pinpoint voters and get their voters to the polls. 2012 will be the first truly technology driven Presidential campaign, run on iPads and iPhones. The Democrats handed the GOP a marvelous gift of a recall that went on and on and on. By the time everyone got to the gubernatorial recall, the GOP had its GOTV tweaked perfectly.
It exceeded expectations.
The fourth thing we can conclude from Wisconsin is that Barack Obama is extremely nervous. He would not campaign for Tom Barrett. Only on election day did he tweet out his support for Barrett in 140 characters. Barack Obama has batted 1000 in seeing those candidates with whom he campaigns for statewide office go down in flames. Despite their bold prognostications that Wisconsin does not matter and all is well and Obama was just too busy, the Democrats know that they poured in a lot of resources only to lose Wisconsin while giving the GOP multiple recall votes to get their GOTV right. It should speak volumes to Democrats everywhere that Bill Clinton was happy to go campaign for Tom Barrett in a state Barack Obama’s campaign considers a swing state, but Barack Obama was not willing to get tied to a loss there. Remember when James Carville said Barack Obama needed to borrow one of Hillary’s . . .
The fifth thing we can conclude is that exit polling does not work well for recall elections. Consider that voters were evenly split going into the polls on whether they supported Scott Walker’s reforms or not. Likewise, roughly two-thirds of voters either were or were related to union members, which was a bit higher than in 2010. The presuppositions were therefore that this would be close. It’s not so much that the exit polling was wrong, as it was that the presuppositions that went into formulating the exits and, more importantly, into interpreting the exit polling was wrong. The presuppositions the media makes headed into November desperately need to be recalibrated. The media is still operating on FDR Coalition presuppositions in their formulation of and analysis of exit polling data.
The sixth thing we can conclude from Wisconsin is that Barack Obama is still the favorite there, but, while I hate to be repetitive, the Democrats’ continued recall efforts have made the state much more competitive for the GOP in that state.
The seventh thing we can conclude from Wisconsin is that MSNBC is consistently the most entertaining news network in America when things go badly for the left. They may think Fox is in the tank for the GOP, but Fox anchors don’t cry when the GOP loses. I was actually concerned that Ed Schultz might have a medical episode on live television last night. It was . . . surreal. Now I know what MSNBC means by lean forward. I leaned forward as I was viewing, watching for signs of possible coronaries live on TV.
Here’s one thing I don’t think we can easily conclude, but I would take away from Wisconsin. Anger does not win elections. In November, the GOP should be happy warriors, not angry. Let the left be angry. One of the things the left did in Wisconsin that has not been well reported is send mailers to voters documenting their neighbors’ voting history. Thing about that. A leftwing group sent tail pieces to voters trying to shame them into voting by revealing how much or how little they choose to participate in the democratic process. How many voters turned out to vote mad as hell at the left for stooping to this level?
Lastly, I hope the GOP in Washington, which is often afraid of its own shadow is watching this. In Wisconsin, the Republican Governor was willing to pick a fight on a core Democrat issue, stick to his guns, and go through a recall process. And he won. Sometimes, Messrs. Boehner and McConnell, you don’t have to compromise. You can stick to your guns and still win.
Yuck, I dont think i could think of a better example of a condescending, limousine liberal, who knows absolutely nothing than that high society type, obnoxious bitch on this video. She is one of those people who would probably scoff at someone for using the wrong fork for their salad.