NYT: Bergdahl swap has Democrats worried about WH incompetence
posted at 12:41 pm on June 5, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
Don’t ask Barack Obama about that, because he has “absolutely no apologies” for the way the White House has botched the Bergdahl swap from beginning to end. His fellow Democrats feel differently. The New York Times’ Carl Hulse reports that the ongoing mess has them worried about the remaining few months approaching the midterms:
President Obama’s handling of the Bergdahl prisoner exchange has renewed frustration among congressional Democrats about the administration’s relations with its allies on Capitol Hill, and prompted criticism that the White House failed to prepare the lawmakers for the politically explosive case.
While Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Intelligence Committee, went public with her dissatisfaction at not being notified in advance about the exchange, other lawmakers and officials said privately that Democrats felt exposed by their lack of knowledge about the circumstances surrounding Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s capture and the backgrounds of the five Taliban officials traded for his freedom.
The chain of events, coming after days of contending with a searing scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs and coupled with some Democratic unrest over new proposed rules on power plant emissions, has some Democrats questioning the effectiveness of the administration’s team and its ability to help them get on the offensive with a midterm election just months away.
And this is not exactly a new development either:
Still, the level of discontent this week among Democrats seemed noticeably high and was fueled not only by recent events, but also by lingering fallout from last year’s health care furor and unease about the approaching election. House Republicans are also readying special hearings into the 2012 attacks on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, forcing Democrats to put up a defense of the administration in that incident.
The Fox poll yesterday showed that this concern isn’t limited to Democrats, either. Chris Cillizza wrote about other polling showing serious erosion in Obama’s credibility as a leader earlier this week:
For all of the talk about “hope” and “change” — and both were powerful slogans for Obama in 2008 — the core of Obama’s appeal to many independents and even some Republicans was the idea that he would restore competence back to the White House after President George W. Bush’s eight years, years defined by mistaken intelligence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and a mishandling of the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. Obama openly embraced the idea that he was the anti-Bush on nothing much more than his commitment to putting the best people in the right places within his administration. (Remember the whole “Team of Rivals” thing?)
As conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby writes in the Boston Globe: “Running to succeed the deeply polarizing George W. Bush, Obama held himself out not just as a leader who would never ‘pit red America against blue America,‘ but as a natural-born manager whose hallmark was smarts and competence.”
Which is what makes the series of problems within his administration of late all the more politically problematic for Democrats trying to hold onto their Senate majority — and narrow their House minority — this November. The current scandal engulfing the VA is the latest example of competence questions surrounding this White House, but they include everything from the rollout of HealthCare.gov to the targeting of tea party groups by a Cincinnati IRS office. While none of these problems are easily tied directly to a decision Obama made (or didn’t make), they have all eroded the public’s faith that he knows what he’s doing. …
The collapse is striking. In CNN/Opinion Research Corp. polling in December 2008, more than three quarters of Americans said that the phrase “can manage the government effectively” applied to Obama; by March 2014 — before the VA debacle — just 43 percent said the same. A late 2013 Washington Post/ABC poll found a similar result, with just 41 percent of respondents saying that Obama “is a good manager.” And polling by Pew also gets to this competence erosion.
That has accelerated of late, because the examples of incompetence have become more and more high-profile. In my column for The Fiscal Times today, I walk through ObamaCare, the VA scandal, and now the botched handling of the swap that sent five high-profile Taliban mass murderers free. It’s not that Obama’s executive incompetence is a new development as much as that it’s an inescapable conclusion:
Over the last several months, the American public has had a hard and clear look at the executive talent inside the White House, and has begun to despair for real leadership and competence.
When leadership fails, people stop following. It appears in the sixth year of the Barack Obama presidency, that moment has arrived. …
Nothing about Obama’s performance in these scandals and debacles should give anyone confidence in his assurances — not of security, not of competence, not even of beingmadder than anyone. The polling numbers suggest that Americans have finally reached a point where the incompetence and dishonesty are just too obvious to ignore any longer.
Be sure to read it all. For those who are just now worrying about incompetence in the Oval Office, here’s a message from John McClane: