Good question, especially concerning those whose jobs revolve primarily around keeping the President informed. President Barack Obama would be less knowledgeable about what happens in his own administration than most low-information voters if not for the fact that he watches cable-TV news, never knowing about the IRS targeting his political opponents or the fact that his centerpiece legislative achievement was being programmed on TRS-80s in Kathleen Sebelius’ garage … at least to hear Jay Carney explain the lack of executive competence in the White House. After a year full of embarrassing scandals and costly political blunders, The Hill reports that Democrats want heads to roll — now:
Former administration officials and Democratic operatives say President Obama is ill-served by his current White House staff and must reboot his second term team following the disastrous ObamaCare rollout.
First-term insiders argue the White House’s weakness was defined by a lack of preparedness, messaging blunders and failure to keep the president informed.
They say Obama’s team lacks depth after the departures of longtime advisers David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs and Patrick Gaspard, and suggest new people must be brought on.
This gets to the point Robert Gibbs made earlier, which is that the White House has destroyed its own credibility. That, however, isn’t a problem with Obama’s advisers but with Obama himself. How many people lost their jobs over Benghazi over the false narrative that it was just a demonstration over a YouTube video, not to mention the lack of preparation for trouble on the 11th anniversary of 9/11? Zero. How many people got fired in the IRS scandal? None. The same people who lied to Congress about the NSA’s activities are still in charge of them.
ObamaCare is a special case, though, because it is (a) paradigmatic for big-government advocates that central planning produces better results, and (b) it is entirely a self-imposed measure of political competence. It took 44 months before the White House could claim that they have achieved “private sector velocity and effectiveness,” which as Chuck Todd notes is a perfect rebuttal to (a), and no one has gotten fired over the failures or the supposed lack of a heads-up to Obama, which answers (b), too. Failure in this White House has no consequences, which means that the same incompetents continue working on the same failures and keep producing the failures we have seen all year.
A competent executive would have made examples of a few people long ago as a message to the rest to improve their work. The problem is that we don’t have competent executives in this administration, starting at the top. Obama won legislative achievements in his first term without any operational success, which went unnoticed because either the metrics for success ended up being far too foggy (the 2009 stimulus package), or the delivery dates went too far in the future. The lack of competence is so obvious now that a few firings probably won’t help matters; it will take a house-cleaning now to prop up Obama as an executive. If that doesn’t happen, Democrats will pay the price in 2014, and they know it.
Update: Ron Fournier concurs:
President Obama needs to fire himself. Not literally, of course, but practically: He needs to shake up his team so thoroughly that the new blood imposes change on how he manages the federal bureaucracy and leads.
A series of self-inflicted wounds during his fifth year in office, capped by the botched launch of the Affordable Care Act, have Americans questioning the president’s competence and credibility. History suggests the second-term presidents rarely recover after their approval ratings fall as much as Obama’s have this year.
History also suggests there are two types of White House shakeups. The first is mostly cosmetic and aimed at sending a signal that the president is serious. He fires somebody, anybody, as a sacrificial lamb. The second is deep cleansing – that rare occasion when a president rebuilds his team to change himself.
This is what Obama must do.
It’s notable that after the months-long series of blunders and scandals, we haven’t seen either version of a White House shake-up.