He was supposed to be competent?

In Peggy Noonan’s latest Wall Street Journal column, “He Was Supposed to be Competent”, she channels public dismay at the Obama administration’s lack of competence, most recently in regard to the Deepwater Horizon spill. She makes a good point here:

His philosophy is that it is appropriate for the federal government to occupy a more burly, significant and powerful place in America—confronting its problems of need, injustice, inequality. But in a way, and inevitably, this is always boiled down to a promise: “Trust us here in Washington, we will prove worthy of your trust.” Then the oil spill came and government could not do the job, could not meet the need, in fact seemed faraway and incapable: “We pay so much for the government and it can’t cap an undersea oil well!”

She’s right that Barack Obama promised that, under him, government could do pretty much anything. Merely by nominating him for president, “the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”. He could not deliver on that promise.

But I’m with John Hinderaker in wondering why the public bought that Obama messianic nonsense in the first place. He was supposed to be competent? Why would we think that? This is a man who had no experience running anything before he was elected to the White House. His sole government experience was four years as a back-bencher in the US Senate, preceded by seven years of voting present in the Illinois Senate. His main qualification was delivering riveting speeches from the teleprompter.

The irony to this is that the discontent with President Obama’s performance is somewhat unfair. True, there are legitimate questions about why the administration exempted BP from environmental-impact analysis, how booms are being allocated, and about Obama’s strange disengagement and cluelessness. But ultimately there’s little that the federal government can do in a disaster like this.

In a different situation I would be defending the president, but in this case, Obama has made his bed. He over-promised what government can do, and he joined his party in shamelessly demagoguing Hurricane Katrina. In at least one speech he combined the two:

As we rebuild and recover, we must also learn the lessons of Katrina, so that our nation is more protected and resilient in the face of disaster. . . In Washington, that means a focus on competence and accountability – and I’m proud that my FEMA Administrator has 25 years of experience in disaster management in Florida, a state that has known its share of hurricanes. And across the country, that means improving coordination among different agencies, modernizing our emergency communications, and helping families plan for a crisis.

Now he is reaping the whirlwind.

(Previous post.)

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