Maybe it was arrogance that convinced the president he could misrepresent his health-care plan to Americans and get away with it. Maybe it was laziness in not immersing himself in the nuts and bolts (as George W. Bush did on the surge and Bill Clinton did on everything). Maybe it was insecurity that prompted him to stock his administration in his second term with lackeys who were short on competence. Maybe it is his lack of real-world experience that deprived him of the knowledge that buying insurance is “hard,” and the government doesn’t handle big technology challenges well. Whatever the cause, the president’s blundering on the cherished, decades-old liberal dream of universal health care and his jaw-dropping news conference Thursday are a blow to those on the left who still cling to the notion that he is a man of immense talent.
It is (and has been) obvious to those not transfixed by him that he has one superb skill: weaving his own story in print (his books) and in speeches. It is a sleight of hand to create composite characters and lofty rhetoric. It is ephemeral in that the words have little deeper meaning and are devoid of effective ideas and lasting value. It requires no particular depth of knowledge or detailed comprehension of policy or history.
Winston Churchill wrote about the history of his people; Obama wrote about himself. Ronald Reagan reminded us communism was evil and freedom the birthright of all people; Obama told us he was a citizen of the world. Obama’s closest confidante Valerie Jarrett told us Obama was bored all his life. That may have been because he was self-absorbed. The true intellects, deep thinkers and innovators are rarely bored — they are in perpetual motion and intellectual discovery. The government is falling down around the president’s ears, and the country, even Democrats in Congress, have lost faith in him.
It is too late to redo the 2012 election, but looking ahead to 2016, Americans would be wise to be more selective. So here are a few guidelines for choosing the next president:
1. What has he or she accomplished other than getting elected? If self-promotion is the candidate’s most striking attribute, look elsewhere.
2. Has the candidate solved knotty problems or gotten his or her hands dirty with the fine points of a big enterprise? If not, go look for someone with executive skills and leadership qualities.
3. How has this person reacted when things went awry? If he lied, made excuses or shifted blame, the country can do better.
4. How has the person handled defeat, hardship or failure? If he didn’t acquire some humility or sense of his own failings, he’s going to be trouble.
5. Has the person acted in ways that suggest he thinks the rules apply only to other people? If this is another person with a certainty about his own special qualities that allows him to defy norms other people follow, then run the other way.
It is fair to say what we saw yesterday was not merely a policy failure and indictment against liberal big government, but confirmation of his personal unfitness for the job. Nevertheless, he will be president for three more years, and it will be interesting to see how he stumbles through it.