Are hope and change substitutes for competence?

It’s easy to mock the new Newsweek story that asks “Is the Presidency Too Big a Job?” As Glenn Reynolds puts it:

Nope. Just for the inexperienced guy with no management experience that we elected.

Or this:

The 9/11 terror attacks, in some ways, made being president easier. Struggles over education and agriculture that had mired George W. Bush’s first year in office were replaced with just one big expectation: to keep America safe.

This is Dilbert-esque! President Bush managed to do it, so it must have been easy. Oh yeah? If it’s so easy, why isn’t President Obama doing it?

But as much as Kathleen Maloney’s article tries to acquit Obama of incompetence and write off Bush’s accomplishments as trivial, her article centers around one serious point. She recognizes that our government is too big; “bloated” as she puts it. (Actually, she puts it “too bloated”. I guess a little bit of bloat is just right.)

She’s right. Indeed, the unmanageability of powerful central government is a theme that Friedrich Hayek (whoever he is) recognized over half a century ago.

But how does that acquit Obama? Even if we stipulate that the government is too big to be manageable by anyone, shouldn’t he then be trying to shrink it? Instead, he’s hell-bent on bloating it further.

POSTSCRIPT: Underscoring Maloney’s inability to see Obama’s incompetence as a unique problem, she generalizes from one data point:

Moreover, the number of speeches presidents now give—Obama delivered 57 in October alone, (including some fundraisers), written by a staff of seven speechwriters—can dilute the power of each one.

No, not “presidents”, just Obama. It has frequently been observed that Obama gives an astonishing number of speeches. I wonder if Obama might find the government more manageable if he weren’t spending his time giving two speeches a day.

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