The president has gotten off to a rocky second term.

President Barack Obama speaks at an interfaith vigil for Sandy Hook victims - Olivier Douliery/ President Obama (Olivier Douliery/

This seems as sound a take as any I have seen lately on the Obama administration’s competency deficit:

Obamacare will fail if he doesn’t start paying more attention to the details of implementation, if he doesn’t start demanding action. And, in a larger sense, the notion of activist government will be in peril — despite the demographics flowing the Democrats’ way — if institutions like the VA and Obamacare don’t deliver the goods. Sooner or later, the Republican Party may come to understand that its best argument isn’t about tearing down the government we have, but making it run more efficiently.

Yuval Levin? Gov. Scott Walker? Nope, that’s uber-liberal columnist Joe Klein, who has — to his credit — discovered and is willing to admit to the serious absence of administrative competence and effort endemic in this administration.

It is much more than just Obamacare, as we have witnessed the president bounce like a ping-pong ball in a wind tunnel from crisis to crisis. Sequestration. North Korean saber-rattling. Failure of his anti-gun agenda. There is not an initiative he’s begun either foreign or domestic that has been well conceived, introduced and implemented. Add in Fast and Furious and the series of green-energy crony capitalism flops and you have an extraordinary record of ineptitude. (Klein supplies examples of less-discussed failures: “There has also been the studied inattention to the myriad ineffective job-training programs scattered through the bureaucracy. There have been the oblique and belated efforts to reform Head Start, a $7 billion program that a study conducted by its own bureaucracy — the Department of Health and Human Services — has found nearly worthless. The list is endless.”)

This is precisely why effective GOP governors offer such an inviting contrast to Obama. In Virginia, Wisconsin, New Jersey, New Mexico and other states with GOP governors, budgets get passed, education is reformed, health care is modernized and bureaucracy is tamed.

Conservatives will argue that as government grows more unwieldy and expensive, it simply isn’t manageable even by the finest administrative staffs. They posit, correctly I believe, that you can’t set up a centralized health-care system with 20,000 pages of regulations and expect things to go smoothly. There is a reason not to have a single law run health insurance for 300 million people.

However, it is also true that unless you give up on good governance altogether, you can improve what is there and not multiply failure.

Beyond repealing and replacing Obamacare, Republicans have proposed consolidating job programs and sending Medicaid back to the states, where reform and proper administration is more attainable.

I would go further. What good is the Department of Education? Perhaps we should find out. Then we take most of what is spent on counterproductive federal bureaucracy, turn that spending into vouchers and allow citizens to use them to select their own schools, including not only four-year college but also technical training.

This administration has grand ambitions to grow government but little interest in running it. The result, according to polling, is the highest mistrust in government in years. And rightfully so. We’ve willy-nilly added bureaucracy, deepened the debt, perpetuated cronyism, slowed economic entrepreneurialism and gotten few, if any, of the promised benefits.

Republicans certainly would be smart to start talking about delivering value for the taxpayers’ dollars. After his final general assembly session as governor, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a statement, which read in part:

We set out to make Virginia government do more with less, and after this session the Commonwealth will be on sounder financial footing. Over the past four sessions of the General Assembly, we eliminated many of the past budget gimmicks, reformed our pension system, and appropriated sufficient funds to more than double Virginia’s rainy day fund from $295 million to nearly $800 million. We have accumulated $1.4 billion in budget surpluses the past 3 years through sound management by the legislative and executive branch. Moody’s rated our transportation funding legislation this session ‘credit positive’ toward maintaining our AAA bond rating. Our unemployment rate has fallen from 7.3 percent at the start of the administration to 5.6 percent, the lowest in four years and the second lowest East of the Mississippi, with 147,000 more Virginians back to work and able to support their families.

Now imagine if a Republican could offer that on a federal level.