WaPo: "Obama's inattention to detail" threatens to derail his legacy, or something

Welcome to Euphemism Day, where the media gets to work on its weasel-word usage in a crisis.  At least it’s Euphemism Day at the Washington Post, where two stories work mightily hard to avoid calling Barack Obama a liar and an incompetent.  Let’s start with the latter example from Scott Wilson, whose posits that talking big and having no interest in doing the necessary work forms a coherent management philosophy:


Nearly a year into his second term, President Obama has yet to master the management of information within his administration. That failure has left him knowing too little at times about the issues that matter the most to his legacy.

Obama, who like many presidents had no executive experience before taking office, has never pretended to care much about the details of governing. He prefers the big speech to congressional arm-twisting, the big reform to incremental change and the big foreign policy ambition to cultivating head-of-state relationships.

The approach has its benefits. But it also means that Obama has at times appeared caught unaware as controversies envelop his administration.

What benefits are those, exactly?

In the past week, he or his aides have said that Obama had no knowledge of two major issues now threatening his agenda: the problems crippling the Web site of his signature health-care program, and the existence of a decade-long spying program targeting the personal phones of friendly world leaders.

Oh, those benefits — incompetence and sheer ignorance, with a healthy serving of humiliation and failure on the side.  Helping Wilson to construct an alternate theory of executive incompetence is former Clinton adviser William Galston:


“Compared to the president I served, this president doesn’t seem to be as relentlessly curious about the processes of government — whether the legislative process or the implementation process or the administrative and bureaucratic process,” said William A. Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, who was a domestic policy adviser to Bill Clinton.

Although Obama never seems to get “stuck” in policy details that can stall out a presidency, Galston said, the “problems start when things go wrong and the president gives every appearance of being blindsided by the flow of events.”

“Then people start wondering if he’s in charge, if he’s a strong leader,” he said.

No one’s wondering, actually.  This isn’t an inattention to detail; it’s executive incompetence and ignorance of what real leadership means.

Next, let’s check in with WaPo reporters Lena H. Sun and Sandhya Somashekhar on executive integrity:

A new controversy over the president’s health-care law is threatening to overshadow the messy launch of its Web site: Notices are going out to hundreds of thousands of Americans informing them that their health insurance polices are being canceled as of Dec. 31.

The notices appear to contradict President Obama’s promise that despite the changes resulting from the law, Americans can keep their health insurance if they like it. Republicans have seized on the cancellations as evidence that the law is flawed and the president has been less than forthright in describing its impact.


I’ll let Ron Fournier deconstruct this:

Indeed. But let’s not let the Post have all the fun.  The Hill reports this morning that Obama has finally gotten “annoyed” with the ObamaCare debacle.  Visibly annoyed. Wow:

An agitated President Obama has expressed frustration to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about the faulty ObamaCare enrollment website.

A visibly annoyed Obama behind closed doors has made clear to Sebelius that it’s her responsibility to fix what has become an unwanted second-term blunder, according to senior administration officials.

White House officials say the strong words from Obama don’t mean Sebelius is necessarily in the doghouse but that she’s responsible for fixing the problem.

In the words of one senior administration official, “She’s in a tough spot. She’s on the hook.”

Well, don’t sprain an ankle leaping to your feet in indignation, Mr. President.  That might put a dent in your golf game. Michael Ramirez puts the Ida Know Presidency into a three-panel editorial cartoon for Investors Business Daily that blows through all the euphemisms and exposes the White House’s best case for what it really means:



Also, be sure to check out Ramirez’ terrific collection of his works: Everyone Has the Right to My Opinion, which covers the entire breadth of Ramirez’ career, and it gives fascinating look at political history.  Read my review here, and watch my interviews with Ramirez here and here.  And don’t forget to check out the entire Investors.com site, which has now incorporated all of the former IBD Editorials, while individual investors still exist.

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John Sexton 8:40 PM on September 21, 2023