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Not as smart as they think

Nile Gardiner has this to say about the Obama administration:

This week, thanks to unprecedented levels of Congressional and mainstream media scrutiny of the actions of the Obama administration, the American people have been given a powerful insight into the way in which this presidency has operated. For far too long, the Obama administration has acted like an imperial court rather than a government that is accountable to the nation. The White House’s culture of arrogance and impunity, coupled with a deeply unpleasant vindictiveness, is increasingly there for all to see. Suppression of political dissent, a callous disregard for the loss of American life in Benghazi, and the relentless rise of big government – these will be three of the most of enduring images of Barack Obama’s imperial presidency.

In some ways, however, one could argue that the thuggery, deviousness and unpleasantness of this administration – and let’s not forget the Fast and Furious scandal, which is arguably the worst of all of them – in some ways shows that Barack Obama and his colleagues are not particularly crafty men (and women). If they were really as smart as some think, they would not have allowed some of these disasters to have seen the light of day. Perhaps what the stories suggest is that – as Brian Micklethwait suggested in a comment thread note the other day – that years of enjoying a placid, supine MSM meant that Obama and his colleagues got cocky. They probably thought that no matter how bad behaviour was, whether it was the ACORN episode, the blame-the-other-side nonsense over the budget impasse, Fast and Furious, Libya, insults to old friends (the UK, Poland), failure to shut down Gitmo (as promised), the IRS harassments, the AP phone record stories, etc, etc, that nothing would happen. Jon Stewart would continue to mock mostly Republicans. The MSM would, at most, treat these and other episodes as distractions. (At Reason magazine, here is an example, nicely dissected.) But I think what the administration failed to see is that even in a situation like this, cockiness will lead to a series of disasters and scandals so bad that even usual allies wake up. There is a certain inevitability. The passing of time means memories of how glamorous and appealing Obama seemed have faded.

Another point is that when Obama was elected, the expectation was enormous, although commentators at the time, such as Glenn Reynolds in the US and James Delingpole in Britain pointed out the gulf between the rhetoric, the image, and the reality. That gap has become so vast, and so difficult to ignore, that the media coverage of Obama is getting worse and worse. And all the while voters in the US are understanding that the sort of people who run the IRS will be running healthcare. Marvellous.

Eventually, even Andrew Sullivan will slag him off. Then it’s all over.

22 comments to Not as smart as they think

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    A key to all this (besides the MSM thing) seems to be that lots of people who voted Obama in the election are now troubled. When Nixon voters turned against Nixon, that finished him.

    Democrat voters who do not like what they are now seeing want the whole IRS thing fully investigated, and those responsible to be fired, punished, etc.. But Team Obama are among those who are responsible. If Team Obama were to start sacking lots of IRS people, then at least some of these sackees would surely explain that it was Team Obama who put them up to it and then encouraged them to keep at it, as they probably will be explaining anyway quite soon. So, Team Obama is immobilised. Eventually these Obama voters will realise that Obama himself is one of the senior villains of this piece. They are surely close to this realisation already.

    I agree that this is not what is really important about all this. Obama is not the first US President to use various of his powers to shaft his enemies, in ways he needs to keep concealed, and he will not be the last. But I do enjoy watching it all play out.

  • RRS




  • Midwesterner

    Yesterday I was arguing with an old friend/true blue Obama supporter. At one point in the argument, he began telling me what a great president Nixon was. I’m not joking. Reality warped as I tried to absorb the full connotations of that.

  • Steven

    From a leftist perspective, Nixon was one of the better presidents. Took the country off the gold standard, kicked the ROC to the curb to open up with communist China, set up the EPA and OSHA (good intentions/path to hell and all), killed the space program to provide for social programs, set up price controls, tried to have a health care mandate and when that failed set up Medicare. The only things Nixon did that aren’t on the left platform is expand the war in SE Asia, eventually backed Israel a week after the Yom Kippur War started, and War on Drugs. If he would have had a D instead of an R next to his name, the list of enemies, Watergate, and the cover-up would never have mattered.

    Side note: I was glad to see Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court shot down, not because of his marijuana use, but because of his role in the Saturday Night Massacre. He should have resigned or forced the President to fire him like Richardson and Ruckelshaus did.

  • Mike Giles

    We should recognize that, until recently his entire political career was one long series of repeats of the same basic script. Government was basically – as in Chicago – a one party state. And the media was in his back pocket. He believed that he could do no wrong. Now having big footed into and area that all Americans are sensitive about – the tax man – he’s at a loss.

    BTW, my memory fails me, did Watergate start after Agnew left, and before Ford became VP. If it was before, than the Democrats were engaged in a coup attempt.

  • Sam Duncan

    It’s not only the current administration’s direct experience. The complete failure to make the Whitewater scandal stick must be a factor too. And not just Whitewater; the last Democrat administration got away with a lot, back in the days when “the internet” meant newsgroups and mailing lists.

    When you look at how the MSM is belittling the IRS scandal, it’s not hard to imagine how it would have played out 15-20 years ago. Minor errors by junior functionaries, nothing to see, move along. You might be outraged, but you are wrong: remember that the real scandal is that major corporations (other major corporations, that is) aren’t paying as much tax as we’d like them to…

  • Steven

    BTW, my memory fails me, did Watergate start after Agnew left, and before Ford became VP. If it was before, than the Democrats were engaged in a coup attempt.

    The break-in and arrest of the burglars was in July of 1972. The Oval Office recordings were discovered in July of 1973. Agnew resigned in October of 1973. Nixon resigned in August of 1974. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watergate_timeline

  • greg

    Psssst! Buddy, you want to see a magic trick?
    On my right we have the crowd enrapt;
    benghazi, IRS delving into and delaying the Tea Party groups when they wanted to participate in the electorial process, wiretapping the AP.
    On my left, where few are looking anymore, we have; Immigration Reform(aka amnesty) quietly working to completion. 20 million new citizens(needed anyway to support Obamacare) and
    democrat voters.

  • Paul Marks

    Richard Nixon was brought down by the Deputy Director of FBI (“Deep Throat” – he was angry at being passed over for promotion). There was no ideological loyality in the Nixon Adminsitration (after all Nixon was NOT a conservative Richard Nixon was Progressive, but of an obsolete, “Teddy” Roosevelt, type – which is why modern Progressives depised Nixon).

    The only loyality that Nixon had from his associates was personal – and that is not enough (it is never enough).

    Barack Obama still serves the (modern – Marxist influenced,but this is vastly older than Marxism) cause – and till it is judged that he is no longer of use.

    Brian (in a previous thread) asked if whether the msm were reporting things now (things they have ALWAYS KNOWN) in order to to be better believed when they serve up their “next pack of lies”.

    YES Brian – YES.

    For,as has been long warned, the time is comming when they will need to believed. They will need to be believed more than they ever have before.

    Their explination of why there is economic collapse – when it occurs.

    “The Republicans”.

    “The rich”.

    “The corporations”.

    And many of them are rich, and many of them work for corporations.

    They do not really mind that their lies will direct public anger at themselves.

    For their true objective (which they do not admit to themselves)is not power – it is DESTRUCTION.

  • Regional

    Obama can do anything he likes and the Meeja give their total unquestioning support.

  • I am among the few people who saw Obama for what he is and not for what everyone else thought he might be. And the problem with Obama and his administration is not that they are corrupt and single-minded in their desired ends, which pretty much describes all administrations for a very long time, but that there are so many who, despite the lessons of history, are more than willing to overlook a few “mistakes” in the pursuit of the ultimate wonderful goal of the communitarian ant heap.

    Those public pundits and figures now abandoning ship aren’t so much dismayed by what has been happening under their lifted noses as by the fact that they are embarrassed by the egregiousness, and incompetence, of the people doing it. The commenters in my local paper are widely of the opinion that “well, yeah, but Nixon this and Bush that” as though there is some sort of fairness doctrine that forgives the transgressions of one Party as payment for those of the other. They seem to have no inkling of the idea that what has been happening is bad for them no matter who was doing it. Obama is not the problem. The problem is a system where the likes of Obama are merely a contiued ratcheting up of the power of the state for the benefit of a few at the expense of many.

  • Paul Marks

    Allan – the statism is not even for the benefit of the few, not in the end.

    In part of their minds they actually know that (people like Warren Buffett and George Soros are not stupid)- but they will not draw back.

    Partly because they have benefitted so much in the past (for example Warren B’s fortune is based on government favours and working with government – over 50 years), so how can they draw back now? Even though they can, partly, see that the river is heading over a cliff.

    But there is another factor – an ideological one.

    It draws them like a moth to a flame.

    One can clearly see it in George Soros.

  • jerry

    pick one or more of your favorite(s) –
    – jail time
    – public location stocks and veggie baskets
    – tar and feathers
    – lamp post
    Until there is some type of consequence, NONE of this type of bumbling destructive behavior is going to change !!
    Why would it ?
    Because Obama and everyone that has been placed around him are going to grow a conscience, or and ‘honesty bone’ ??!!!
    Forget it.
    They DON”T CARE if we trust them or like them or respect them. All they care about is power and, I Believe, as Mr. Marks stated above, destruction.
    NOTHING else matters to them. Obama and his minions know that their ’employment contract’ is up in another 42 months ( MY GOD is it really going to be that much longer ??!! ) so from now until then, just do whatever damage you can to hell with what the ‘public’, or the MSM for that matter, thinks or says – because we all KNOW that they are not going to actually DO anything !!
    A nation of sheep in the process of being sheared !!!

  • Julie near Chicago

    Paul, adding to that there is hubris; and there is the pull of Belonging. (Dinnggg!) I suppose that’s part of what N. Branden meant way back when, when he invented the term “social metaphysician.”

    . . .
    . . .

    I do WISH that the folks on “our” side, at least, would quit trying to make out that “Obama is almost as bad as Nixon” and “Obama is just Bush 3.” Cannot people see the intrinsic difference? I hold no brief for Nixon, but in no way did he want to bring the U.S. down–quite the opposite in fact. [Nor was he a T. Roosevelt Progressive, at least not entirely, since his aim was obviously not to build an empire (in the true sense of the term)–if it were, he wouldn’t have left V-N.] By the way, Nixon is the one who ended the draft–by law in 1972, I believe, and conscription ended altogether in 1973.

    No more did George W. Bush, who genuinely aspired for the U.S. to be a force for good. He wasn’t interested in Empire at all, so put that one to rest; he did begin an intiative to get Social Security privatized, although for some reason he dropped the project (I have a couple of conjectures about that); he dumped Israel, but that too was sudden. “No child left behind” was the worst of his projects, but has it occurred to anyone that the man may have been trying to do what it seemed to him (for whatever reason) the People wanted? As seen through the glasses of one who, yes, came out of a certain kind of social-betterment background. And he was against TARP, and he issued several warnings about what was happening, even though he signed off on it. It may be that his faith was in Democracy, or it may be that he thought he should go along with his Party leadership at the bottom line, or there may have been other factors about which I won’t speculate since they’re O.T. anyway.

    As for Iraq, that did not start out as an exercise in “nation-building,” and the war was undertaken on several solid grounds. Even Colin Powell’s “you break it, you bought it” argument appeals to the American conscience: If one has caused harm, one attempts to repair the damage. (I once said the remark was asinine, but that’s because it completely overlooks that those poor people lived under a busted regime to begin with.) And there were excellent reasons for that undertaking, which have been argued several times, although not, I grant, in the MSM, the Daily Show, or most “libertarian” rags.

    But George W. was a thoroughly decent man as a human being, nonetheless, and definitely in favor of America–though not, I repeat NOT, in the sense of wantng a Military or Colonial Empire.

    This is nothing Nothing NOTHING like Obama, who has a hate on for America, for the Anglosphere, for the West generally. Why can’t people grasp the simple, obvious, and overridingly important fact that he wants us to be “in reduced circumstances”–to the point of being Zimbabwe or any third-world hellhole. Who wanted, before the 2008 election, to “fundamentally transform” America? Who stated that the Constitution is a “flawed document”? (Perhaps it is, but not for any of the reasons he thought.)

    Never forget that Hugo Chavez is, according to Obama, one of his Heroes.

  • Mr Ed

    Well in Venezuela it is far worse than in the US, if reports are to be believed. Give them 5 years…


  • veryretired

    They don’t know what they’re doing, and never have.

  • Gene

    Maybe I’m just unusually gloomy this month, but I’m having a hard time feeling optimistic about what conclusions my countrymen may be drawing from this allegedly “bad week.” I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • Paul Marks

    Further on self destructive ideology….

    There are piles of copies of “New Statesman” magazines in British newsagents and even supermarkets.

    Why? After all most of these copies are never sold.

    They are there because the owner of the New Stateman (via his company “Progressive Media”) pays for them to be there – he deliberatly makes a loss to spread the message, to serve “the cause”.

    But what is this cause?

    The cause of confiscating the wealth of rich “capitalists” (and then doing even worse things).

    But he, the owner of Progressive Media, is a rich capitalist.

    He is subsidising his (and his families) destruction.

    So am I really mad – or are these people really in the grip of self destructive ideology.

    The practical evidence – such as the existance (and endless pushing) of publications of such as the “New Statesman” suggest the latter.

    I even believe that top managers of large companies would write utter crap in a newspaper controlled by an “ex” KGB man and financed by his ill gotten gains.

    I believe that because THEY ALREADY HAVE.

    Top “capitalists” choosing to write pro E.U. stuff (showing their utter ignorance of economics) might be explained as corruption (i.e. the hopes for government contracts and grants and …..), but why in the “Independent”?

    In the Independent because they (the “Progressive” businessmen) believe it is a noble newspaper.

    Why noble?

    Because it serves the cause of collectivism.

    The cause that would confiscate their wealth – and do worse things (to them and to their families).

    I would argue that the this is a self destructive ideological position.

  • Rich Rostrom

    I heard all this 15 years ago about Clinton.

    Corruption exposed, incompetence, political abuses, alienation of former supporters. In the end it didn’t matter.

    After momentary fit of revulsion, the chattering class rallied round. All of Clinton’s crimes were excused or denied or declared insignificant, and he finished his term.

    His accomplice Hillary got a Senate seat. Most of the gang had to leave the executive during the Bush years, but many are back in now.

    And that was 15 years ago. Charles Murray has documented the continual shift of the chattering class to the left over the last 40 years.

    The gap between them and the rest was nil in 1972. By 1998 it was 18 (on Murray’s scale – see his essay for explanation). By 2008, when Murray’s chart ends, it was 28. If the trend (which had been dead straight for 35 years) continued, the gap is now about 32.

    I heard a lot of the same talk about Obama last year. There was overwhelming evidence of corruption, incompetence, and abuse: “Fast and Furious”, Solyndra, Piggford, the monstrous deficits, high unemployment, Benghazi – even minor things like failing to appoint a new Secretary of Commerce for ten months.

    All sorts of people who endorsed Obama in 2008 came out for Romney, including his own campaign co-chairman.

    But it didn’t matter – he was easily re-elected. Obama floated home on the huge puddle of low-information voters who are swayed by the consensus among the chatterers. That consensus, despite occasional cracks, remains firmly behind whatever party is on the Left (except those that are even further left, and thus provide a spurious image of moderation).

    R. Emmett Tyrrell calls it kultursmog, and it’s far thicker than it ever was before.

  • Mike

    Julie, most of the Leftist I’ve known have a hate-on for America as well. They see that in him clearly. It’s one of the major reasons they support him. Shared hatred.

  • Paul Marks

    Julie – I said that Richard Nixon was a T. Roosevelt style Progressive, because he said he was.

    I agree there is a difference.

    “Teddy” Roosevelt was an optomist, he viewed himself as the Ceasar of a new American Empire (which is why the Wilsonian side of the Progressives hated him – they viewed the United States as just one state in the World Collective).

    Richard Nixon was President in a time of DECLINE – a decline of which he was well aware (one of the things that is not likeable about Newt Gingrich is his habit of denying decline – and his pretense, when he does not deny decline, of pretending it can be reversed without great pain).

    Nixon was also not part of the elite – as both “T.R.” was (his man-of-the-people act was a hollow sham – although his personal courage was REAL, he really did have “the spirit of Julius Ceasar” he was not pretending about that) and Obama is.

    Richard Nixon had to WORK for everything that other people (such as Barack Obama) get handed to them on a plate.

    That makes me have sympathy for Richard Nixon AS A PERSON.

    Although I do not support his policies.

  • Paul Marks

    By the way – I agree with the point that Julie and others make about the difference between wild spending Republicans and people like Barack Obama.

    The “compassionate” Republicans do not want to undermine the United States – the (Marxist faction) Dems like Obama do want to undermine the United States.

    The end result (bankruptcy) may be the same – but the intentions are totally different.