Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Obama Staff Real World and Policy Inexperience Sinks the Cerebral Presidency

Obama's criticism of Sarah Palin for inexperience is his own Achilles heel.

He campaigned by condemning Palin for her inexperience and the public bought it but in the end the disintegration of his own staff reflects on his own inexperience in policy and real world challenges. As the integrity of his economic, health care and foreign policy are challenged and word leaks out on how he constructed and pursued his agenda of change the cerebral approach to the presidency he displays is daily being undermined by the exodus of key staff and leaking of internal policy disputes.

First came the departure of three of his top economic advisors, the latest being Lawrence H. Summers, who will step down as director of the National Economic Council. His abrupt resignation follows that of Budget director Peter Orszag who left in July, and the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Christina Romer, who left earlier this month. Only embattled Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner remains of the original Obama team.

Since when did the architects of the most significant economic changes in our nation's history, to paraphrase the White House spin, run for cover before their plans are even implemented? Could it be a forewarning that the White House intellectuals failed to understand the politics of governing and have decided to abandon ship before they are blamed for the failures?

Health care looms as a second backdrop to the policy problems of our young president as health care costs continue to rise after passage of the Obama bill while trillion dollar price increases were postponed by the White House until after the 2012 election and they cast a dark cloud over our future. More evidence of the policy failures and failure to read the public mood by the president's team.

Today's disclosure by The New York Times of the vicious policy battle over the war in Afghanistan as disclosed in a new book by Bob Woodward indicate Obama gave up trying to build a consensus in his own staff and made up a strategy with no basis in fact. Coming just six weeks before the midterm elections the impact of Woodward disclosures could be further devastating to the hopes of Democrats of keeping control of the Congress.

With Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, ready to jump ship and run for Mayor of Chicago those with the least practical experience will be left in the White House. One wonders why Emanuel would trade running the White House for being mayor of a city but he knows what we don't know about the state of the state.

Obama built an administration with many educators and friends and a cadre of former Clinton people but the theoretical world of academia is a far cry from the hard knocks of reality and many of the Clinton people were the previous architects of policies and procedures that caused the economic collapse. There are times when even experience is bad if it did not contribute to the public good, a fact President Clinton recognized when he apologized for the economic and regulatory changes these people made late in his presidency.

Obama can still salvage his final two years if he does not make the same staffing mistakes again as he replaces all those staff running for the turnstiles. Of course his administration still remains bloated with academics and arm chair activists with no clue as to the policy process, the art of compromise with Congress and the meaning of bipartisanship so the purge must go much deeper if he is to be a success.

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