President Obama’s national security team is beset by shortsightedness, prone contradictory messaging, often reduced to panicked scrambling, and needlessly partisan—that’s the gist of a scathing article by Politico‘s Michael Hirsh. The former defense insiders among his sources certainly pull no punches:
“I think this is the most insular White House national security team in recent history,” says Jim Thomas, vice president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former senior Pentagon official, who added that the president’s most recent big decision, picking an “Ebola czar,” was “symptomatic of the problem.” The choice: former Joe Biden chief of staff Ron Klain, picked by a White House seemingly unconcerned over the dubious optics of naming a Beltway politico to battle a deadly international disease. […]
Read the whole thing. While some of this criticism may be put down to a desire to settle scores, Hirsh’s piece provides extensive evidence in support of one of our major concerns: that the current U.S. leadership is not up to the task of dealing with a world facing a fast-growing array of complex challenges. The best excuse that the White House’s defenders can come up with seems to be woe-is-me : “‘In [Rice’s] defense some of that was there before, and I would say probably no president in recent times has faced the variety of threats that confront the United States right now, and the speed with which they’re emerging,’ this former official said.” If that is the mindset of the Administration—that this job is just too difficult—then the President needs to find himself a new national security team. Of course whether he would listen to that new team is a separate question.