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October 25, 2013

Jonah Goldberg: King Obama, Always Running for a Job He Already Has

From Jonah's Goldberg's newsletter, The Goldberg File:

King Obama

Charlie Cooke has a great column today making a very similar point to what I had intended to start the G-File with: Obama's not a dictator; he's a king. And when I say he's a king, I don't mean the dictatorial kind of an absolute monarchy. I mean he's like the king in a parliamentary democracy where the prime minister has all of the power and the monarch is supposed to mug for postcards and inspire elementary-school children. He's less Longshanks and more King Ralph. At least whenever he's expected to take responsibility, he becomes a figurehead who gives voice to the public's outrage over the problems he himself created. "Nobody is angrier," Obama routinely insists, about the crap people should be angry at him about. As Charlie puts it, "Obama is less Julius Caesar than he is a tribune of the plebs -- an Oprahfied avatar that has been custom-designed both to indulge and guide the public sentiment like so many Bill Clintons feeling your pain."

He's always changing costumes to play the role that political necessity requires of him, which means he has more wardrobe changes than a Vegas drag queen's one-"woman" tribute to Cher.

Always Running for a Job He Already Has

The only thing Barack Obama knows how to do is be Barack Obama. He thinks that's his job, like a king whose only real responsibility is to be kingly. The problem is that the one person (who matters, at least) who doesn't understand this is Barack Obama. As he once said, Obama believes his own bull***t. Charlie offers some good examples of Obama's own Olympian self-regard. For instance:

"I think I'm a better speechwriter than my speechwriters," Obama told him. "I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I'll tell you right now that I'm gonna think I'm a better political director than my political director."

Though I immediately thought of this bit from New York magazine:

Emanuel's ad-hocracy, meanwhile, didn't faze Obama. The president's friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett sometimes pointed out that not only had he never managed an operation, he'd never really had a nine-to-five job in his life. Obama didn't know what he didn't know, yet his self-confidence was so stratospheric that once, in the context of thinking about Emanuel's replacement, he remarked in all seriousness, "You know, I'd make a good chief of staff."

Those overhearing the comment somehow managed to suppress their laughter.

Obviously, Obama always has a healthy ego, in the same way Godzilla had a healthy physique and the sun has a healthy mass. But part of the problem stems from the fact that he cannot see the difference between campaigning and governing. That would be bad enough, if it were not for the fact that Obama seems to think that he ran his campaign. As I noted the other day in the Corner, here's Obama's response to the charge that Sarah Palin had more executive experience than he did:

Barack Obama: Well, you know, my understanding is that, uh, Governor Palin's town of Wasilly [sic] has, uh, 50 employees, uh, uh, we've got 2,500, uh, in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. Uh, uh, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. Uh, so I think that, uh, our ability to manage large systems, uh, and to, uh, execute, uh, I think has been made clear over the last couple of years. Uh, and certainly, in terms of, uh, the legislation that I've passed just dealing with this issue post-Katrina, uh, of how we handle emergency management. The fact that, uh, many of my recommendations were adopted and are being put in place, uh, as we speak indicates the extent to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect.

The remarkable thing about this is that there's no real executive experience in his explication of his executive experience. Yes, the candidate can fire people from the campaign. But being the candidate and being the campaign manager are as different as being the lead singer for Spinal Tap and being the band's manager. On the campaign trail, Obama's job was to "be Barack Obama," to sound smart and charismatic and rev up the crowds. He's still playing that part rather than fulfilling the job description.

And no one will tell him. That's why, I suspect, when he went to check on the progress of the site's development he had no idea how to ask questions that would get at the reality of the situation. Bureaucrats, apparatchiks, and contractors blow smoke. That's what they do. Obama has no idea how to cut through the smoke. He thinks being president involves constantly going out and giving speeches to crowds that love him about how hard he's working rather than actually, you know, working. It's all very meta. He's playing president Obama because he doesn't know how to be president Obama. I think that when he went out on Monday and did his infomercial schtick in the Rose Garden -- Operators are standing by! It's not just a website; it's a floorwax! etc. -- he honestly thought he was fixing the problem. Well, I've done my part!

You can sign up for email delivery of Jonah Goldberg's The Goldberg File and other NRO newsletters here.

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posted by rdbrewer at 03:30 PM

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