Pretty in Pink? Obama’s Dark Night of the Soul
Published on: November 16, 2010
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  • Luke Lea

    “Why does he have so much trouble persuading the white working class that he is on their side?” Because maybe he isn’t? He needs to show he cares, to remember the grandparents who raised him and the world they came from.

    Immigration and trade are two things that are really hurting them now. At least staunch the bleeding.

  • C Philips

    Please read, in the blogs that published this information when the media carefully ignored it, about the tight connection between Obama and the unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers. Then reconsider how you could have ever voted for Obama.

  • Neil

    I believe you’ve missed the central aspect of Obama’s character that will determine the outcome, and which accounts for many of his beliefs: he’s too intellectually lazy to pursue your list of the questions he should so clearly be asking himself. This is entirely consistent with his lack of interest in reading, and his having written so little about anything except his own navel-gazing.

  • HappyAcres

    Your words are beautiful and your faith in politicians is touching. Myself, I consider them horrifying rascals, one & all.

  • Don

    Mr. Mead:

    What a surprising column! My sincerest best wishes for achieving such a well written amalgam of ivory tower “analysis” and personal invective. I suggest that should the blogging business ever dry up, you may wish to seek employment at the Fox News network. You would be a wonderful substitute for those days when the acknowledged master of abusive high brow commentary, Charles Krauthammer, needs a day off.

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  • TheGeezer

    “Many people on the left deeply need to believe that the Left has both history and the American people on its side.”

    Obama is supremely and purely leftist. He will not change. He will fail for that reason. Thank goodness!

  • John

    In answer to to all the questions you ask toward the end of your article, maybe Obama is not as smart as you think he is. And worse, he does not seem to learn, but goes from one mistake to the next.

  • boater1217

    Don’s comment is the typical “head in the sand” our man can do no wrong liberal reaction. Mr. Mead offered sound advice to save not only Obama but to give the country a chance to improve.

  • rjsquirrel

    “Now for the first time in many years he is having to operate in an environment whose rules he does not fully understand. … he is baffled, angered and confused. He is not sure why all this is happening or why the magic that used to work so reliably now seems to fail every time.”
    I submit this passage completely invalidates any thought of him being “highly intelligent” or “smart” – media memes with zero proof to this point.

  • rasqual

    I feel no differently about Obama today than when I didn’t vote for him. But I sneer at his voters who now feel so different (one can’t say “think” so differently, because thinking seems never to have played an appreciable role for them), and I’m angry at them — not Obama — for his failure. He is what he is. But they were stupid. Alas, we all suffer their punishment alongside ’em.

  • Steevo

    It seems to me you’ve tried to cover every angle but morally it’s various shades of gray and your own rather understandable misgivings. For many of us who have not voted for him he really hasn’t surprised other than being more stupid in like head strong, shoving it down our throats with an elitist indifference. He is a statist/socialist and has never liked the self-sufficient American spirit of which he cannot control. In other words he has never liked much of what this country has been about. That’s his identity.

    And “Pretty in Pink” is nothing more than soft ball frustration and no big deal. Clinton got his paltry share of criticism too when matters mounted making it impossible for the media to maintain credibility if they shut up.

  • ZZZ

    You are still making an unjustified assumption: that Obama is no more crooked than your average president. What you should be considering instead is that Obama is no more crooked than the average Chicago Democrat machine politician. As his former supporters back away, the media can start to “vet” him the way they should have back in 2008. The results won’t be pretty. What was that remarkable Washington Post piece, the one that practically commanded Obama not to run for a second term, but a warning that if he doesn’t play ball and go away nicely, then his former friends will “reveal all” and make him go away nastily?

  • Understand Car Insurance?

    Get a clue, the man’s an empty suit. I’d bet dollars to donuts he couldn’t handle a paper route effectively. The Obama Presidency is the nth-power extrapolation of the Peter Principle. He makes Jimmy Carter look like Lincoln.

  • You list all the things that the Republicans couldn’t do if elected; “withdrawal from Iraq, refocus our efforts on Afghanistan and take the edge off world anger at American foreign policy while stepping up drone attacks in Pakistan and keeping Guantanamo open until we found a realistic alternative”.
    Obama hasn’t done any of these. There is no realistic alternative to keeping unrepentant illegal enemy combatants in a cell. The successful withdrawal from Iraq is based on Bush’s timetable and Bush’s surge success. The world is still angry at American foreign policy, while loving Obama the man.
    So the Republicans couldn’t do it while maintaining a strong, unrepentant US. The Democrats couldn’t do it while changing us to a weak, repentant, bowing US.
    Guess which one will be better for the US, and for the world, in the end.

  • ThomasD

    Can we safely conclude that you do not view the likes of David Brooks, Kathleen Parker, Christopher Buckley, Ross Douthat, et.al as members of the conservative press?

  • huxley

    WRM: Please explain how Obama is smart in terms of actual ideas and accomplishments, rather than your repeated ipse dixit.

    I don’t think Obama is dumb, but I’ve never seen any evidence of the man’s vaunted intellectual prowess, aside from his ability in very specific circumstances to get elected.

    Please explain why you believe the questions you enumerate could in any way be Obama’s questions. From everything I can tell Obama doesn’t have to listen to the left to be misled. Obama is the left.

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  • DrZ

    Mr. Mead:
    Your faithful readers still yearn for a detailed explanation for your insistence that Pres. Obama is highly intelligent and talented. What talents does he possess, e.g., speaks foreign languages, plays a musical instrument, is good at arithmetic, draws well, plays chess and bridge, memorizes lengthy texts (teleprompter?), possesses profound knowledge of some science, reads people well, is pursuavsive. How does his performance differ from that of a high-average person’s?. What evidence do we have that he understands any issue whatsoever even at the 50000 foot view. Why does he say so many really stupid things like, “the science is settled,” and start useless fights on matters of no concern to the federal government. Why are his extemporaneous remarks so incoherent and free of content and his vocabulary so impoverished?
    It’s not sufficient to point out that he seems to have come out of nowhere and yet rose very swiftly and far. He might have had expert help.

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  • ahem

    Face it: if you truly realized what you’d be getting when you voted for Obama, you would never have voted for him.

  • Pava Renat

    Obama is clearly a complete ignoramus on economic issues, and so he has stepped into and become permanently caught in the leftist Keynesian bear trap. His economic policies, from TARP and the stimulus to financial reform have been spectacular failures, and the damage to employment and growth done by Obama-care, taxes, and an expanded regulatory regime have ripped the rug from under the economy. Without undoing all the damage he’s already done, he cannot get reelected. He has to repudiate his first two years of economic scorched earth policies. What are the chances of that? Obviously, zero to none.

  • S Engsgtrom

    You keep repeating the mantra that the President is so intelligent and talented. What is the basis for this? For example, he has never released any of his college records, so as far as we know, he could have been a “C” student. Another example: would a talented and intelligent person make all the blunders he has? Is this person truly intelligent?

  • Hmmmm.

    “If we were to stick to President Bush’s timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, refocus our efforts on Afghanistan and take the edge off world anger at American foreign policy while stepping up drone attacks in Pakistan and keeping Guantanamo open until we found a realistic alternative, Democrats were going to have to do it. ”

    Most absurd self-justified claptrap ever written by someone trying to whitewash their vote for a candidate proven to be utterly incompetent. Really? The GOP needed the break?

    Logic, nonexistent. Rationale, unimpressive.

  • NavyVet

    Mr. Mead:

    We have leadership in Washington filled with checkers-players when we need chess-players. Many of the speed-bumps encountered by Obama were foreseeable with a basic understanding of Game Theory and an ability to think more than 2 moves into the future. Look at the missteps on Israel or the ongoing political albatross known as Health Care Reform. How hard was it to see where these Presidential initiatives were headed? You mention your preference for Obama/Biden — 2 senators with no real management experience — and you admit you did not think through how they would defer to their pals in Congress and how domination by one party would lead to ruinous policies. You Sir, are still playing checkers with logic like that — have you evolved since 2008? McCain/Palin would have been tragicomic in many ways, but the Congress would have been stymied and all those idiot watergate babies, like Obey, Stark, Feingold, Dodd, Waxman, etc… would have been left fuming and ineffective.

  • Stephen J.

    “I don’t expect him to tuck his tail between his legs and slink away. The President is too driven and, yes, too smart and too talented to give up so quickly.”

    May I ask what basis you have for this assessment of his character?

    Smart and talented he may be, but driven? My own reading about Mr. Obama’s career path suggests rather a fatal inability to stick to or maintain interest in any one occupation for long, especially if it contained more obstacles or less reward than he’d hoped, combined with a strongly indicated tendency to exploit the easy opportunities of image and identity politics that the last two decades in particular have opened up. He has seemed far more like a wandering intellectual who drifted into a perfect storm of luck, opportunity and timing — he seems “driven” to me only in the sense that a figurehead is driven by the boat behind it; the fact that he is at the forefront does not make him the one who sets the course or propels the vessel.

  • Charles

    I’m convinced you weigh the ideological factor in Obama FAR too lightly. All that is known about Obama’s personal history would indicate that he is strongly oriented to the left and unlikely to change. He has said that he would like to be an effective one term president (and I think I know what he means by that) rather than a less effective (or whatever adjective he used) two term president. There you have it!

  • Bob

    I don’t understand your reasons for voting for Obama. He was the better of the 2 choices? How so? Everything bad about McCain was far worse in Obama. McCain was an unellectable, squishy-moderate Republican. Obama was a far left socialist who (obvious by his friends) doesn’t care for apple pie America. Obama isn’t just intellectually lazy and conceited, he is lazy, period. His own words (audio book) state that when he was a lawyer he was “surprised by how little work [he] actually did”. He is a bad employee who is unfamiliar with a day’s honest work.

    None of this hind sight retrospecting about Obama holds any water. No serious person who didn’t have their head in the sand or wasn’t voting for a left-wing ideology could say that honestly thought he was a good choice. I hated voting for McCain; but there honestly wasn’t any better choice.

  • Tom

    The questions you want him to ask himself, if answered correctly, would turn the President into Ronald Reagan.

  • redneckdago

    Read your well thought out column while listening to some Opeth, and Mr. Mead, you are one [good] writer.

  • Steve in SoCal

    Interesting article, up to the point where Mr. Mead says: “I voted for Obama because the United States needs a government . . .” even a bad gov’t? At least with McCain you might have actually had an idea of what kind of gov’t you were getting. Of course, everyone knew what kind of gov’t Obama was going to lead.

    Good luck on Obama “introspecting.” He is who he is: A guy who has rode the white/black liberal pony since day one with each agreeing to be used by the other to impopse their socialism on the rest of us.

    As for the Copenhagen, Seoul, talking nice to our enemies? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why these thiings have happened. First, it the actual process of governing, the actual nitty-gritty dirty details. Second, not knowing how and not having done any of that, either in governing or putting together a budget, business strategic plan or such, but believing that showing up really is 90% of the job, does anyone wonder why Obama has had these failures? From his “i’ve got a gift” to “I’m Lebron baby!” it has been in sight for the last 3 years.

    Obama likes being president. Obama doesn’t like doing president.

  • Richard Cook

    Sir

    You votes for him. You “thought” you knew. You did not know. Do not think he will chang. He will not.

  • Hawk777

    I could sum up obama thusly: he does not like America as it is now, but would love it if it is remade in his socialistic utopia. I do agree that it is better he was elected than the wishy-washy McCain who would have simply tried to accomodate the far left socialists that infest the democrat party. At least this way the mask is withdrwn and even the least inquisitive Americans can reject the horror of modern liberalism. PS: you talk too much.

  • Claude Hopper

    Your essay is a very well written statement of your opinion of Obama. But I agree with little of it. I cringe at nearly everything he does and everything he states (OK, the drone attacks are good). Overall, I believe him to be a failed president and look forward to his departure. (Alas, I’m a dumb tea partier).

  • LAN

    Don:

    Very nice ad hominem attack on Mr. Mead. You address not a single issue in Mead’s column, you just unleash your personal temper tantrum because he scored some points against The One. Typical of Your Kind.

  • MaxMBJ

    I agree with Mr. Meade that Obama is smart but it is an intelligence that — like an athlete who broke all rules, wined, womened, and songed himself into oblivion — is virtually useless. His mind is in a straitjacket formed by a lifetime of academic/liberal self-referential logic. All ideologies inhibit the brain’s natural strengths, but liberal ideology is tasers it.

    I speak as a lifetime academic. I have had to fight not to give in to the siren song of such thinking. It is extremely attractive as it both alleviates the hard choices and elevates the thinker morally, at least within this entire circle of logic.

    Obama has not resisted such cognition. Hence, there really is no hope that he will figure things out and ask the questions Meade suggests. He simply cannot accept the answers. To him, a person like Sarah Palin is simply a moron. He might pretend to listen to her if the cameras are rolling, but there is no way he can.

    Perhaps a new crop of young academics will move past this morass, but Obama won’t. He’s in the quicksand too far.

  • Guydreaux

    Great piece of writing! Nice imagery, descriptive but incisive. Well done.

    However, I don’t think Obama is ready to dump the left wing orthodoxy he has been immersed in his whole life. And if he did, that process would take a lot longer than the year he has left before he hits the campaign trail.

    Right now he is receiving advice about 2012- that the key is to ensure a huge voter turnout (say 20 million more than in the 2010 midterms) and win 60% of those additional voters. Hence, his advisers will tell him to play to his base (wealthy plutocrats, public sector leeches, Latinos, African-Americans, gays, the liberal intelligista) and then hope that a recovering economy reduces right wing anger (and turnout) by 2012.

    This is a strategy Obama will understand. He really thinks it is about the economy rather than dislike of his policies. He will be helped by an incoherent Republican party.

    I just don’t see any evidence that Obama has ever learned anything he didn’t already agree with. And I don’t see much determination in him. He leveraged connections to get into Harvard, to get a job at U of C, to get started in politics in Chicago. The path has been cleared for him- he is no rail splitter. I don’t think he’d done a hard day’s work in his life before becoming President. And he clearly feels the American people are too stupid to appreciate him. He will not want to fail. Rather than working harder he will give up in a year’s time (not run for re-election) if by then he hasn’t motivated his base and the economy hasn’t improved.
    We’ll see.

  • noahp

    Gee Don, give the guy a break! “Hope springs eternal in the human breast” is empirically verified once again. Obama is worse than he thought but he still has no regrets! And he has hope that “The Radical in Chief” will shed decades of intellectual habits and unleash his inner Clinton. Another Obama voter, Peggy Noonan, has been pushing similar Kool-Ade for over a year now! I’ve argued with libs/progs for years to no avail. Chances for sober introspection? ZERO.

  • John Barker

    Welcome back WRM. Your evaluation starts to make sense of the man and to give me some points to ponder as his term progresses. I think that he still has a chance to win over independents again, especially when you consider the alternatives.

  • GFFM

    I attended an Obama rally before his election and was terrified. People were weeping and sobbing. I felt strange standing there just observing and not participating in the adoration. I had a terrible feeling then that America, in a kind of American Idol frenzy, would elect him. I didn’t vote for him. The more I learned and the more I saw I became afraid. I have never felt that way when voting for a president. All my fears have been realized exponentially. McCain would not have been great, but the state of the debt, and the health care situation would not be putting such a massive drag in the economy. You were utterly wrong for voting for this Elmer Gantry and you should admit it. You still maintain he is smart. What measure are your using? You sound like David Brooks. Intellectuality is valuable when it actually is able to help people and when it actually connects with ordinary Americans living in red states.

  • Stu in SDGO

    How could a guy apparently intelligent have voted for an empty suit like Obama to begin with? So after Obama’s disastrous run, the author finally decides to come forth with a mea culpa? Why did he have to wait until after the election, or is he just like all the other Obama-enablers in the media, who sang his praises and avoided any real inspection of his experience (none) and credentials (none). You’re a day late and a dollar short; a lot of us (48% who voted in ’08) got there way before you did. Were you fooled by Obama, or just naive? In either case, why should anyone ever listen to you again on things political?

  • Chester White

    Awfully easy for you to trot out the unfalsifiable line:

    “Hey, don’t blame me for voting for this guy; McCain would have been worse!”

    You are just embarrassed that all us idiot knuckle-dragging Neanderthal clinger rubes out here had this clown 100% pegged from the instant we laid eyes on him.

    It’s you who need to be examining your thought processes, pal.

  • Jim

    He remains a highly intelligent, extremely ambitious person who seeks approval and success. [Those kind of people are a dime a dozen. So what?] Now for the first time in many years he is having to operate in an environment whose rules he does not fully understand. [It is called reality, and the first time you run into it is usually around 18. He’s a bit late to the gate.] As far as I can tell, he is baffled, angered and confused. [Like the lazy bum who finally gets thrown out of Mom and Dad’s basement, he’s not happy.] He is not sure why all this is happening or why the magic that used to work so reliably now seems to fail every time. [He can’t figure out why tyrants and terrorists don’t recognize his specialness. What is the matter with them? And no, that idiot McCain would not have been any better. That’s why I refused to vote for either of them. There is a limit to the concept of the lesser of two evils. Same sewer, different stinks.]

  • bob c

    You greatly overestimate Obama’s intelligence. Perhaps you should consider why he has taken pains to hide his school records and IQ test scores.

    Instead of asking, “Why does his staff keep sending him to high profile, high stakes international negotiating events (Copenhagen I on the Olympics, Copenhagen II on climate, Seoul on Free Trade) without a winning script?”, perhaps you should ask, why is he not sharp enough to understand that these things should be virtually completely negotiated before he boards Air Force One.

    I’ve got but a grade 12 education and I know that a President doesn’t put his credibility on the line for a pig in a poke.

  • John Stephens

    Don,

    Perhaps you replied to the wrong column? I’d actually like to read the “amalgam of ivory tower analysis and personal invective” you speak of, as it would be more entertaining (though less informative) than the rather accurate though hopelessly idealistic material found here.

  • Marc Savard

    This is a very heartfelt and serious piece. I am always amazed though at the over-emphasis of the personal characteristic of “high intelligence”, that seems so valued by those in your world. If Obama and Clinton were so “intelligent”, while W. was so unintelligent, then how did they get themselves into such fixes. Obama monumentally misjudged his election and the American people’s views. You point out his deep flaws. Coming from the perspective of the Heartland of WI and the Tea Party Movement, give me a person with real world common sense values anyday over an “intelligent” Ivy Leaguer who’s never held a real job in his life.

  • Robert

    Well, you trusted that the grownups would backstop Obama’s weaknesses, and they didn’t. Instead, as was completely predictable, they ran around doing every irresponsible, self-serving thing they could get away with or ram through Congress.

    Obama’s character (or lack of it) and his general European political philosophy (which goes bone-deep) were entirely clear to anyone who cared to look, despite the best agitprop efforts of the mainstream media.

  • bob c

    Obama isn’t half as bright as you think he is. That he has taken such pains to hide his school records and IQ test scores is a clue.

    So, rather than your question, “Why does his staff keep sending him to high profile, high stakes international negotiating events (Copenhagen I on the Olympics, Copenhagen II on climate, Seoul on Free Trade) without a winning script?”, the question ought to be, why does he fail to understand that one does not put the prestige of the Presidency on the line for something not at least nine tenths in the bag before Air Force One takes off.

  • AK

    Thank you for a very thoughtful column. You make a number of good points, and I appreciate the perspective an Obama voter who wasn’t drawn in by all the messianic hoo-ha. One thing really jumped out at me, though: do you realize that in this short column you told the reader not once, not twice, but thrice that Obama is smart? You called him “highly intelligent” and “smart,” and defended him from the charge that he is a “clueless clown.”

    Whom are you trying to convince that Obama is bright, your readers or yourself? Do you think that you would have to remark thrice on Obama’s smarts if his intelligence were obvious from his words and actions? Is there a reason for insisting that Obama is not a dullard, other than because the things he has said and done to date lead the observer to question whether there is anything exceptional about his brain?

    Mr. Mead, you’re trying too hard. I’m reminded of those Diet Dr. Pepper commercials, the ones that say that it “tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper.” Look, if you have to go out of your way to say that a diet soda tastes like a regular soda, it’s because everybody knows that diet soda tastes bad. Dr. Pepper has to tell you otherwise to sell its product. The pitch is basically “who are you going to believe: me, or your lying tastebuds?”

    What do we actually know about Obama’s intelligence? We don’t have college grades, standardized test scores, or anything that he wrote that was not subject to an unknowable quantity of editing and ghost writing. He published no legal scholarship while at the University of Chicago. And when he speaks without reading his lines from a Teleprompter, he has said some very foolish things.

    I’m not arguing that Obama is stupid, or of below-average or even average intelligence. No one ascends to high office without being pretty smart. But in over three years of observing this man, I have yet to see any evidence that his intelligence is exceptional compared to anyone in the Senate, much less any other president.

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  • Barry D

    “I hope he will neither double down nor triangulate. I hope he will find some time over the holiday season to reflect on his presidency to date and ask himself what if anything the world has been trying to teach him these last two years.”

    If he does this, I will eat my hat.

    That’s his weakness, really. It’s called lack of character. It’s not stupidity. It’s not even naivete. It’s simply lack of character. He’s a lazy, fundamentally weak, narcissistic, shallow, spoiled person, who personifies the criticisms that some level on our whole society. That is probably why so many people failed to see his faults, which seemed so clear to me long before the election: these faults are things we all share to some extent.

    The problem is that these are not simply little lessons to be learned. These are the fatal flaws of Greek tragedy, deep flaws of character that humans have observed throughout our history. In short, the intrinsic danger of hubris is that the truly hubristic is unaware of it.

    It’s something that was dealt with often in older literature. We still know about it, but we’ve forgotten the words used to discuss it, I think.

  • LarryD

    Just as the Left cannot accept, cannot even consider, that their fundamental ideas are wrong, neither can Obama even entertain the notion that he is wrong. There will be neither reflection nor triangulation, doubling down is the only thing he can do.

    Narcissism is rampant in the Left, and Obama is one of the sufferers.

  • Buzz

    Obama will never ask himself any of these questions because, fundamentally, he doesn’t believe he’s wrong or has made mistakes–other than “not communicating better”.

    Obama is and will continue to be a failure because, as Neil points out, he’s intellectually lazy. He’s convinced he’s right and everyone else is not only wrong but stupid.

  • ed

    quote: “President Obama may not turn out to be the new Lincoln; but neither is he fated to be the new James Buchanan. It is still much too soon to tell whether he will be the new Jimmy Carter.”

    I think Millard Fillmore is a more apt analogy than Jimmy Carter. I do hope the Millard Fillmore Fan Club, if one exist, does not take umbrage with my comparison.

  • Bill

    “He remains a highly intelligent, extremely ambitious person….”

    Speaking as a practical American, do I really need to cite the aphorism, “Intelligence is as intelligence does”?

  • J. P.

    Mr. Mead, you have earned my grudging respect. I’ve found your analyses dismissable in the past, wily sometimes but missing the clarity that comes with an objectively imposed discipline, and so relegated you to the noisy herd. My bad.

    No mere analyst are you sir. You, aghast at the audacity of your piper, to dare to expose your shameful innocence, turn to the flanking attack. You do it well, with Swiftian malice and intensity, yet deliver it with such a flurry of projection that we’re all too confused by the end to even guess where you’re coming from. Bravo.

    But that 3rd-to-last paragraph gives the game away. And we didn’t think you were keeping score.

  • Engineer25

    So far, Obama has responded to rebuffs with doubling down. While I think Dr. Mead’s questions for the President are all wise ones for him to consider, I rather suspect the President will double down and pursue implementation of his agenda through regulation, provoking a sharp conflict with Congress that will take a pronounced balance of powers tinge.

    I think it would be remiss not to highlight that much of the bad advice the President has been recieving is directed in bolstering the foundering “Blue Social Model” that Dr. Mead has written about in the past. A question facing the GOP is whether they can fashion a viable alternative.

  • Chester White

    Censoring comments, I see.

  • Robin

    I knew in my gut that the minute he screwed up the oath of office, it was going to be downhill from there. And boy, was I right!

  • RebeccaH

    This article sounds like an attempt to justify your very mistaken vote for Obama. Yes, John McCain was a bad choice and would have made a mediocre president, but I don’t believe he could possibly have done the damage to the country that Obama and his Chicago circle have done.

    How can Obama ask all those questions of himself that you wish he would ask? That would mean repudiating his entire life’s structure, and I don’t believe he can do it. You know why? Because I don’t believe he’s as smart as everybody keeps saying he is.

  • I always enjoy your columns, this one included.

    The use of the adjectives smart or intelligent when applied to politicians has always struck me as peculiar. In our culture, these words generally mean having strong analytical and deductive skills (think SAT or IQ test). I doubt these measures are highly correlated with good judgement and leadership—at least within the sample of people who already make it to the plausible candidate stage. I assume you accept this as obvious.

    Intelligence is context driven. Magic Johnson was a genius on the basketball court. For basketball, that is all that matters (he may be a genius elsewhere too, but not my point).

    Feodor Dostoevsky was a genius in understanding man’s inner psychological conflicts. But his political views were often incoherent. Pick the activity and we all can name similar examples.

    Assuming we accept on faith (or his Harvard Law Degree if you wish) Obama’s intelligence, traditionally defined, what does that have to do with having the necessary skills to be President? The answer is nothing.

    I will be very surprised if this President adapts well to his circumstances. I do not think he understands human nature. He lacks common sense. He prioritizes poorly. He does not understand his audience. He is an abstractionist, and at best a mediocre one at that.

    I do not think he is an intelligent president at all.

  • Lindsey Lohan

    “If we were to stick to President Bush’s timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, refocus our efforts on Afghanistan and take the edge off world anger at American foreign policy while stepping up drone attacks in Pakistan and keeping Guantanamo open until we found a realistic alternative, Democrats were going to have to do it.”

    You’re kidding me. There was never the talk of keeping Guantanamo open nor was their talk of expanding the war as it is today into Pakistan and Yemen. This makes me think you’re trying to convince us that you really believed these things when you went to vote – of all things – for the most Liberal man in the Senate.
    No. Either you’re lying or way confused here. I NEVER heard of anything other than when Obama came in, the economy would come roaring back, Gitmo would be closed in under a year, the wars would end, secret wiretaps would stop, spending would be under control, deficits would be reduced – in fact, this was to be the opposite of what Bush’s last two years were.
    Instead we’re two years in and we see record death toll in Afghanistan, Gitmo still open, record deficits, record unemployment, record spending, record foreclosures, record number of people on food stamps, record bank failures, a failing dollar, dozens of unelected and unaccountable czars, executive order used to assassinate Americans overseas, expansion of the wars and a disastrous foreign policy – and this is only the beginning.
    I for one can honestly say I saw this coming. Liberalism is a failure every time it is implemented. And this Socialism is even worse.

  • Marty

    Professor Mead,

    You mention our habit of electing inexperience—in the Presidency, who are you talking about, pre-Obama?

    Not Bush 43; Not Clinton; Not Bush 41; Not Reagan; Not Carter; Ford wasn’t elected, but if he had won I would cite ~20 years in Congress and 2 years as President; Not Nixon; Not LBJ; JFK? maybe, but he WAS a 2-term Senator; Not Ike; Not Truman by the time he was elected in 1948; Not FDR; Hoover? Maybe, but people in 1928 thought he did have good experience; Not Coolidge; Harding? see above comment re JFK; Not Wilson; Not Taft; Not TR; McKinley? Cleveland? B. Harrison? Cleveland phase 1? Hayes? Grant? Lincoln, maybe, but most people think he turned out OK and that’s going back 148 years from 2008.

    How far back do I have to go to find this pattern? I’ll give you Fillmore, maybe W. H. Harrison, Pierce, maybe Buchanan, maybe Lincoln. Maybe J. Q. Adams?

    Who else? I see mostly founding fathers, then generals who commanded significant, independent forces, and a lot of multi-term Governors and some multi-term congress-critters, and former VPs or sitting Presidents who got the job through death or resignation of predecessor.

    Maybe there’s no job that really is a good dry run for President, but I do not see some pattern of Americans electing manifestly inexperienced, unqualified people, until the (almost) unique outlier of 2008.

    The real question is why people (like you) voted for him, contrary to all previous patterns. He was largely unknown, largely unvetted, but what little we did know was not good. If 2010 is not an endorsement of the GOP as much as a rejection of Obama and the Dems, I have to think 2008 was not an endorsement of Obama and the Dems as much as the country hadn’t yet got the GOP out of its system (which is pretty much what you say about your vote).

    Also, you say Obama is highly intelligent. EVERYONE seems to believe this, and often say it. Evidence? Oh, I don’t think he’s stupid, but where is the evidence he is more intelligent than other people playing at that level, enough so to be worthy of repeatedly mentioning it?

  • Robert Hanson

    “The President is too driven and, yes, too smart and too talented to give up so quickly”.
    Whatever gives you that idea. He left the major pieces of recent legislation to Pelosi and Reid to write. He wrote virtually no bills in the Illinois Senate, simply attached his name to the work of others. Mainly voted “present” on controversial issues. He didn’t write even one article when he was head of the Harvard Law Review. He is only “driven” to give speeches
    about “me”, write books about “me”, and play golf. Having been encapsulated his entire life in a liberal academic bubble, where mere words are rewarded and actual results deemed irrelevant, he is now astounded that his telepromted speeches are not considered sufficient production for a POTUS.

  • Barry D

    Hubris. The Greeks knew of it, and so do we. We just don’t talk about it much, any more.

    Obama will not learn about himself from this, because that’s not how hubris works. He’s shallow, narcissistic, and spoiled. These are character flaws.

    One may be smart, clever, educated, and many other things. Character is something else.

    Character matters, and that’s where he is weak.

  • nwesterner

    Your excuse for voting for Obama is hysterical.
    How many past friends,supporters and family members of the the big “O” that were under the bus did you have to drive over in order to cast your vote? Writing was on the wall…..

  • Back in November 2008 I predicted that Obama would be a better president for US – in the long run. His presidency would ruin liberalistm for years to come and unite American people. And look here – it’s happening. Check out my article here:

    http://hyphenatedamericans.blogspot.com/2008/11/i-can-live-with-obama_02.html

  • Kansas City

    This was a fascinating read, but it ultimately did not wind up anywhere. The criticism is devastating and accurate. Presdient Obama is not qualified to be president, and he has a faith in a failed liberalism and other bad ideas. Okay, what is the answer? Obama should think about stuff. I would hope that he does that already.

    Today, in addition to Obama’s inadequacies, the problem is made worse by the fact that he is surroudned by political people who now will be focused virually entirely on his re-election.

    I really think the best result for the country is stalemate until there is an opportunity to elect a new president.

  • Larry Gwaltney

    Where are you getting this “highly intelligent” description of Obama?

  • Rozallia

    As a fan I am deaply disappointed in the reasons you gave for voting for Obama. I can understand those who were fooled but not those, like you, who decided to roll the dice on the fate of the country by casting your vote for a too liberal “one-term senator of little life experiece.”

  • Tom Paine

    There is a difference between “perceptive intelligence” (the ability to perceive reality and work within the limitations of what it makes possible) and “verbal intelligence” (the ability to manipulate words and concepts skillfully).

    Obama obviously has high verbal intelligence. But perceptive intelligence? I doubt it. Where would he have learned this skill?

    He has spent his whole life in the abstracted-from-reality liberal-academic world where success comes from constantly proving adherence to liberal-academic orthodoxy. That is the ivory tower, where improving the story is much more important to your peers than questioning how much of the story is fiction vs. non-fiction. And sustained questioning is necessary to perceive the reality behind the smokescreen of words.

  • Mahon

    Obama was elected President of the United States, but has governed as president of the faculty lounge – the community of academics, media types and government-dependent placemen with little or no idea of how the world actually works. He would have to change his entire world view to do as you suggest. “Jimmy Carter’s second term” now looks like the best case scenario.

  • jesme

    Never mind poor Don. He’s still drinking the Kool-Aid. I think this was a fine essay. I’m one of those conservatives who voted for O because I thought he was far too smart to actually try to implement all that left-wing bibble-babble. In many aspects of foreign policy, I was right. But in domestic affairs, the guy has run wild. I sincerely hope that the beatdown he just got will wise him up.

  • Phd

    Thinking on Obama, I’m ever reminded of the Eagles song “Lyin Eyes”; “city girls find out early, how to open doors with just a smile”. He found out early, and just kept on smilin along. Watching election night in Grant Park, I thought I was watching Jonestown. Quite simply, the man has no resume. No objective writings, no accomplishments aside from getting elected to office. Totally at sea. A fraud. And not the least bit intellectually curious. A terrible setback for African Americans. When will another AA have a prayer at being elected President?

  • Makaainana

    Life is getting worse for OBAMA???!

    Gee that’s a shame. I’ll bet that at least 15 million out of work Americans are real sypathetic.

    Meanwhile the top 2% are going to get a tax break, B of A is going to need another bailout, the “War” is extended, Social security is on the block.

    I would like to see a + and – set of columns that show whether the rich or poor are getting helped.

    Don’t forget you have to buy Medical insurance and give up your right to privacy in the airport.

    If you ever said you’d rather be safe than free. now you know that trying to get that “safety” leaves you with neither.

    The Repubs have the Tea Party and the Dems have the winpocrats lead by Obama. The common man has the bills (his and the governments) to pay.

  • to swift

    So, post-election, Obama was acclaimed as being somewhere between the new Abraham Lincoln and the new Jesus Christ. We’ve pretty much ruled out that Lincoln possibility by now. Which still leaves the Jesus Christ parallel, which, judging by some of the similies in this article, is still alive and kicking.

    Personally, I’d have voted for the devil before I’d have voted for Obama. The devil has considerable on-the-job experience. And, to his credit, he harbors no illusions that he’s God.

  • Chris Bolts Sr

    I think a better question that Obama needs to ask himself is, “Why has everything I learned turned out to be wrong?” You see, Mr. Mead, Barack Obama belongs to that class of Leftism that believes that everything they know and do is right.

    One of the worst things that happened to Obama in his life is that he has never been challenged on anything he believes. Becoming President is a bad place to begin to learn that you don’t know everything and that a lot of things that you do know are ineffective at minimum, counterproductive at best, and dangerous at worst.

  • Carlos Olivas

    “Many people on the left deeply need to believe that the Left has both history and the American people on its side. When Obama looked like a transformational figure who would end the nightmarish Reagan-Thatcher era, slay the chauvinistic dragon of American exceptionalism,…”

    Mr. Mead,
    Those of us who came to the US from abroad in search of the “chauvinistic dragon” of American exceptionalism find your remark a bit insulting. It reveals a huge failure of imagination.
    It’s very easy for those who grew up in a free society, to imagine the non-existent benefits of a Socialist world. Where the very thing that defines them, and in many cases affords them a livelihood, is impossible to find in the utopias they envision.
    When you have lived under the constant oppression of the state, and your life experiences can be such, don’t you dare speak against the very thing that is responsible for your very existance: American Exceptionalsim

  • Whitehall

    While we’ll never know how a McCain Administration would have turned out, enough data is in to show that Obama has been a disaster for the country.

    Professor Mead’s justification for voting for Obama is completely inadequate and unconvincing. He, and the other Obama voters, owe the rest of the nation, and much of the world, an apology for their faulty judgment.

    No, the proper argument about the balance of the term is how do we stop the Obama administration from doing yet more damage to our government, our economy, and our society. Two years of gridlock will be a relatively good thing and perhaps the best we can hope for. Positing hopes for Obama suddenly becoming a realist is just continued fantasy.

    Obama’s values, ideals, and worldviews are plainly out of touch. Expecting him to change runs counter to human nature of the adult man.

  • Thomas

    He did his best to enable a Marxist coup in Honduras, throwing a democratic US ally under the bus;

    He has turned the DOJ into an arm of the Democratic party, ignoring voter intimidation in Philadelphia;

    His administration refuses, as a matter of policy, to enforce the law when the defendant is black;

    He spent twenty years in the pews of a racist and reactionary theocrat;

    He was picked for his first job by a communist and a terrorist, his good friend and Weather Underground founder Bill Ayers;

    In that job he squandered 100 million dollars of money desperately needed by poor Chicago-area schoolkids, to no result whatever;

    On the surface Mr Obama’s administration has been, like Him, callous shallow and stupid. At a deeper level it is anti-American and anti-democratic. Every tendency is to substitute government and third-party decision-making for individual liberty. Happily, He is too incompetent to be effective, and we can probably recover from another two years of Him.

    Anyone upset over His screwups can apply to NASA: I understand they’re in the therapy business now.

  • IcePilot

    You think that President Obama may grow and recognize “the failure of left-liberal governance or ideas”? This seems like wishful thinking in order to justify a poor voting choice (not that voting for Senator McCain was supported enthusiastically by the Right, but at least he’s an adult). I would acknowledge that President Obama’s election, the rise of the Tea Party and the mid-term election result are the best thing to happen to the Republicans in a century, but of course no one knew that ahead of time.

    Regardless, you might be interested in this bridge I own in Brooklyn – I can let it go for a very reasonable price ……

  • Victor Erimita

    A lot of good, honest analysis here. But I have two criticisms.

    First, you still defend your 2008 vote for Obama on the grounds the GOP was somehow more corrupt and incompetent than the Democrats? The GOP “corruption” consisted formally of a handful of lobbyists and less than a handful of politicians. To unfavorably compare that level of corruption to the vast levels in the Democratic Party is delusional. It is true that the less formal “corruption” of conservative values by a pork- and power-hungry GOP undermined its effectiveness and credibility. But to assert the Democrats would not only not be far, far worse, but better, is folly. As we have plainly seen.

    Second, you recycle the trope that Obama is “highly intelligent.” Where is the evidence of that in any of his life achievements or in his ability to grasp and process any reality that does not fit his obviously narrow and rigid ideological template? Almost anyone can name probably hundreds of personal acquaintances that accomplished more real achievement in their careers than did Obama prior to his elevation by media and power circles to an undeserved presumption of competance. Maybe he is “intelligent.” But he has not applied his intellect to see anything outside an extremely narrow worldview shared by only a relatively small portion of the population of this country. That is neither impressive nor promising.

  • ian

    There seems to be some type of default setting that forces pundits to assure us that for all his missteps, Obama is still so very intelligent and talented. Based on what again? I’m not saying the guy is a dope, but he doesn’t seem any more intelligent/talented than the White House’s myriad other occupants.

  • IcePilot

    You think that President Obama may grow and recognize “the failure of left-liberal governance or ideas”? This seems like wishful thinking in order to justify a poor voting choice (not that voting for Senator McCain was supported enthusiastically by the Right, but at least he’s an adult). I would acknowledge that President Obama’s election, the rise of the Tea Party and the mid-term election result are the best thing to happen to the Republicans in a century, but of course no one knew that ahead of time.

    Regardless, you might be interested in this bridge I own in Brooklyn – I can let it go for a very reasonable price …..

  • Greg.M

    You voted for him? good work ya goon!

  • Ex-pat in Oz

    Your thoughtful appeal for moderation and a measured way forward for President Obama is appreciated. I really do hope he takes this route. As partisan as I admittedly am, I’d still take a healed US and another Obama term over a further ravaged nation and a GOP winner who has to rebuild with ashes.

    But I don’t see the qualities you see in him. I don’t see the intelligence, the sense of country, the determination to unite that you see. I see a small, self-absorbed man who, by a fluke of history, won the biggest gamble of his life. And, like many unworthies, he’s finding that “winning” means worse than nothing. Take the worst parts of Hamlet and MacBeth and you have Obama.

    Review all the questions you hope he’ll revisit and ask yourself again… can’t we anticipate Obama’s answer to every single one? And isn’t he by now and by all measures truly entering Buchanan territory– having already passed through the Carter zone?

  • Mike C

    So, Dr. Mead… why again did you vote for this man? Because he wasn’t a Republican?

    Leaving aside for a moment the obvious fact that there are other political parties in the USA besides the Donks and the Proboscideans… anyone who has run a business can tell you about the dangers inherent in promoting someone too quickly. What Obama did, in effect, was to go from a junior marketing position, all the way to CEO, within three years. This is a recipe for absolute disaster.

  • djm

    Why has all the ‘get tough with Israel’ advice from Middle East ‘realists’ led him to one disaster after another?

    Answer: because as Nete has stated over and over-“when you live in a neighborhood where everyone wants to kill you, you don’t invite them over for a picnic.” Unless you are a collectivist lefty and you actually think there is a utopian society to be had.

    Why has ‘split the difference’ strategy in Afghanistan worked so poorly?

    Answer: Because in a shooting war you either go all out and destroy or be killed yourself. Half way measures are for a utopia.

    Why is it that every time he listens to environmentalists something politically bad happens?

    Answer: Because they are environmentalist! What the hell do they know about world monetary manipulations, a fighting war, hell what do they know about human beings making a living.

    What are the three to five fixes he could make that would take the edge of the health care debate?

    Answer: Easiest one of all. Kill the law. It cannot lower medical cost. It cannot defy business reason by taking 1/2 trillion out of one program and claim it won’t affect the services in that program. Can’t add 30 million (15 million illegals in that number) and not drive cost through the roof. Hell you cannot add 3 salesmen and not drive up the cost of your business. Difference is you work to get more business with the 3 new salesmen to cover the increase cost and to get higher revenue that will increase profit.

    Why is it that public service unions so consistently give advice that is bad for both his political health and the future of the country?

    Answer: Human nature of unions. “Give me more for doing less” Even Samuel Gompers would be ashamed of the SEIU and the other communist unions out there. Unions brought good changes when they asked for fair conditions and pay for their members labor. Not 20 years as a civil servant and then retire on $120,000.00 a year. More than what 96% of what Americans make. The former greatness of American unions was their rejection in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s of the European model of union demanding socialism. Our unions at the time determined to be part of the capitalist system in America. Remember how they prospered and the country prospered early on? Read your history.

    Why does he have so much trouble persuading the white working class that he is on their side?

    Answer: As Luke Lea stated in his commentary “Because maybe he isn’t?” Again read up- Rev. Wright and company and liberation theology to which the community organizer subscribes.

    Why don’t conciliatory gestures to foreign leaders and political currents lead to concrete negotiating concessions?

    Answer: The world is and will remain a tough place to do business and foreign leaders will only partner with and be led by strength. BUT even when you have the strength you have to project it and be willing to use it. The community organizer does not understand this nor can namby pamby people utilize it.

    Why does his staff keep sending him to high profile, high stakes international negotiating events (Copenhagen I on the Olympics, Copenhagen II on climate, Seoul on Free Trade) without a winning script?

    Answer: Because they are HIS staff. They adore him, he will roll back the tide, he will speak and the world will do his will! I’m certain you do not remember President Bush stating before the election “whats this guy think, that he is going to say something that hasn’t already be said to Iran?
    That he is going to say it in a special way that they will magically change their minds?” I believe the community organizer and his staff actually did think that.

    Why does all the advice from the legalistic Goody Two-Shoes community turn out to be unworkable (as on Guantanamo) or destructively unpopular (as on the question of trying KSM in Manhattan)?

    Answer: Because he appointed Eric “theRed” to Attorney General. And the community organizer’s staff thinks silly thoughts everyday.

    Shame on you WALTER RUSSELL MEAD and all who voted a community organizer into the office he now defiles. Hope the next two years of bad only happen to his true believers like you.

  • nadine

    While the Left continues to indulge in faith-based blaming of everything and everyone but their own failed ideas, moderate, rational centrists like Walter Russell Mead have no choice but to sound like Charles Krauthammer, and for the same reason: it is the only course the facts and logic permit.

    I have no faith that Obama will be able to question himself in the manner Mr. Mead so reasonably recommends; his inflated sense of self-regard will prevent him from looking in the mirror for the source of any of his troubles.

    Obama and today’s Left deserve each other, and I wish them much joy.

  • College Prof

    When the chips were down, this wise man didn’t understand the ABC. I’m not talking about Obama, given the adjective I use and take seriously. I’m talking about Mead. McCain and the Republicans of 2008 “could not provide a government?” That is not wisdom speaking. That is not sober analysis. It is false upon its face: divided government does provide a government in our system. Period. What it perhaps is (and was), is an intellectual’s cowardice in the face of intense anti-Bush group-think, US and Euro, a group-think that did not stop at rigorously criticizing Bush and the aughties GOP (which was absolutely merited), but which proceeded into the fantasy-land thought of “notBush = political goodness.” And the bubble of Obama’s reputation swelled up upon and now remains only understandable given that particular political fever, one that displayed its “respectable” side in what Mead gives us here.

    McCain was of course a not very desirable candidate, and in retrospect there is a perhaps irrefutable case to be made for Republicans being grateful he wasn’t elected. But anyone could see in 2008 that the Dems were going to retain both houses of the legislature…so, give the Dems the Exec., the Leg., and a “tie” (of sorts) on the Court? That is what a vote for Obama meant. On the hope that a “breather” would somehow allow the right to rejuvenate itself? This was moderate? Wise?

    The G.O.P. was what it was in those days, yes, but the evidence of what the Dems were and would be in power was abundant–and it was the job of people like Mead to ponder that evidence.

    I have enjoyed and benefitted from Mr. Mead’s commentary for many years. He is, by and large, wise about political things. I salute him, and could go on and on about how many astute columns he has written. So yes, with “Mother’s proverb” in mind, I do have something positive to say here.

    But 1) I remain angry over how many moderates so-called and intellectual conservatives lost it in 2008, 2) I am genuinely shocked to learn that even Mead belonged to their ranks, and 3)I continue to think that moment was important. A moment many of you out there need to Reflect Upon. YOU gave us this president. YOU gave us a monstrosity of a law that will probably not be repealed for decades. Only YOU could have prevented it.

    Yeah, assuming Obama loses in 2012, AND that the Dems won’t retain a stable enough filibuster block against the repeal of Obamacare, things might possibly turn out all for the better for the USA than if McCain had won. But that’s rather easier to say now than it was in the first half of 2009, and it’s still assuming a whole lot.

  • My dearest Walter. If you understood American Foreign Policy since WW2. You would know why Iraq was important.

    You might wish to review George Keenan and the policy of establishing American bases around the world to bring peace to the world. A largely successful policy.

    Iraq was just an extension of that policy to the Middle East.

    I voted McCain because I think he had a better grasp of that policy than the current Resident. Or any Democrat.

    The Democrats gave up that policy when they gave up on Vietnam. They have never recovered. They should be buried, not elevated.

  • nohype

    I voted for John McCain because I thought he was the lesser of evils. He would have been, at best, a mediocre president, but he would not have been the disaster that Obama is on track to become. However, at the time I thought it was possible that the disaster I expected from the Obama victory might in the long run be good for the country. Sometimes the best way to deflate an idea is to let it be put into practice. Even if he had not been totally unprepared and unqualified for the presidency, Obama was destined to be a failure because his understanding of the world is the flawed understanding of the Radical Left. That progressives are beginning to desert him was predictable because progressivism is a religious faith that government will make things better when the right people are in power. With his Radical Left background, progressives saw Obama as an ideal person to head the government. But as your article points out, as the dreams are not fulfilled, the Left has a choice. They can reject their faith in the ability of government to solve all problems, or they keep the faith and blame the people in charge of the government. Not enough will reconsider their faith; most will decide that they misjudged Obama. Obama will try to survive not by triangulating or changing. He will demonize the opposition because he has a very limited playbook, and demonizing others is the play he knows best.

    We need Obama to fail and fail badly so that we can abandon the road he wants to take us down and take a different path.

  • Why? Well his early political training was as a Marxist. Remember him saying he preferred Marxist Professors in his book?

    And well you know – short of a police state Marxism fails sooner. With a police state it fails later.

    Walter: you are blinded by your faith. Just as Obama is blinded by his.

  • I see my comments are not welcome. No matter. At least your screener has seen them.

  • Elliot

    Obama is no different from the liberals. The liberals can’t comprehend their ideas can be wrong. obama can’t comprehend he can be wrong. Don’t look for either of them to examine these basic premises.

  • tom swift

    It’s good to bear in mind that despite all the prattling in the press about the “youth vote,” Obama himself is a middle-aged career politician. His learning days are behind him. I don’t expect him to change in the face of experience, because I believe that he simply can’t. The necessary psychological qualities aren’t there, and it’s far too late for him to acquire them.

  • WRM, first you say this:
    “The Left can only interpret all this as the failure of Obama. It can’t be the failure of left-liberal governance or ideas. It is intellectually and morally inadmissible to suppose that the left-liberal politics of the twentieth century have passed their sell-by date and will destroy any political leader (or any nation) that attempts to live by them. Therefore, since liberalism cannot fail, the only possible conclusion is that Obama isn’t doing it right.
    That is absolutely correct. For the committed liberal, questioning their own politics is tantamount to questioning the foundation of their character; they are inextricably intertwined. Obama is a man of the left and always has been. The questions you suggest he dig deeply into will never occur to him. At the moment his main concern is how to convince his base, and us, that he has been wildly successful already; we just don’t know it or see it yet. The other alternative is that the people are incompetent, never him.
    You are right about one thing; this is a man who has never before failed and how he responds will be determinative.

  • huxley

    WRM: Please explain how Obama is smart and talented in terms of actual ideas and accomplishments, rather than your repeated pronouncements.

    I don’t think Obama is dumb, but I’ve never seen any evidence of the man’s vaunted intellectual prowess, aside from his ability in very specific circumstances to get elected.

    Please explain why you believe the questions you enumerate could in any way be Obama’s questions. From everything I can tell Obama doesn’t have to listen to the left to be misled. Obama is the left and he doesn’t have any other ideas.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      The man got elected president of the United States with no experience — and defeated the Clinton political machine to do it. Combine that with becoming editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review and while I wouldn’t call him omnipotent I would never call him unintelligent.

  • aarthur47

    Dear Mr. Walter Russell Mead,

    I’m not educated (GED), I served my country, I love Our country.
    President Obama has attempted to destroy this great country – I voted for McCain and held my nose when I did, because I was not blind to the fact(s) of Repulican abuses, but, feared for Our country if the former won. I was right and am right – and you Sir gave your intellect to charlatan in Socialist/Communist clothing. Hope all you want, but, pray for your country. For You Sir betrayed it’s trust – for you are of the educated.

  • betsybounds

    You voted for this wizard because you thought we needed a government? Well, how ’bout this: You voted for this wizard, and now we still need a government. Every time I see him on the Tee-Vee, I say to myself, “Who is THIS wizard? And why the hell doesn’t the United States of America have a president?”

    But–hey. We haven’t had a government since January 20, 2009. Maybe we don’t need a government after all.

    The problem with that, though, is that what used to pass for a government around here is getting to be more like a tyranny.

  • weary_G

    Sorry, Walter, but you give Obama too much credit, both in the intelligence and motivations area. WHY that is, I can’t quite say. One would think that having seen him operate over the last two years, you would have come to realize that he is a horrible mixture of empty suit incompetence and hard-core left-wing ideologue.

    Instead, you seem to be repeating the error so many made in ’08, which is to create in their minds eye what they WANTED Obama to be, rather than dealing with what he actually was.

    In the end, though, there is perhaps some truth to the fact that as bad as he is, he is just what the country needed to show us where we were headed and change course. Let us hope.

  • Don Cox

    Obama reminds me of Adlai Stevenson in his attitudes and policies.

  • joe

    These comments are great. Professor Mead references President Obama’s intelligence once in an otherwise vanilla, exculpatory post and all anyone would like to conjecture about is Obama’s relative intelligence. The real question here is classism.

    Some think, and I even am somewhat sympathetic to the idea, that President Obama’s less than outstanding employment record was given a pass by the media, not on account of race but because he was one of us: Occidental, Columbia and Harvard Law. And now we citizens of these 59 states have to endure public intellectuals telling us how smart President Obama is even after the mid-term elections that produced the greatest political swing since 1938.

    The political left and right are unhappy. So much is even admitted in the article, yet President Obama is too intelligent not to triangulate or re-focus on the political center. Why? We can hope President Obama will follow this path, but nothing in his past suggests he will. The President has repeatedly attributed his party’s defeat to a failure in communicating his message to the masses. Does that sound contrite or introspective to you? Yet, you maintain he is too smart and too well-educated not to turn it around?

    There is something so atavistic, clannish and parochial about this line of reasoning. It could have come out of the 40s or 50s during the WASP ascendancy. A St. Grottlesex and Harvard man defending another based solely on matriculation.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      St. Grottlesex maybe, but Harvard? Please! Have you no decency?

  • joe

    Ha! I knew that would get your goat. Was considering going with an A.R. Gurney joke, but have encountered otherwise reasonable people who love the Snow Ball.

  • Russ Wood

    Prof. Mead, I admire your analyses in almost every blog post, article and book that I’ve read, and I’ll grant that the Republicans were shopworn in 2008, and that one could then have had a real debate over whether Mr. McCain would make a better president than Mr. Obama. Yet, while I’m not accusing you of lying, I simply cannot see how you could have persuaded yourself to believe the things that you claim to have believed in voting for Mr. Obama. If nothing else, this post holds the seeds for a great paper on self-delusion in making political choices.

  • Cynic

    Mr. Mead,

    Regarding Obama’s achievement in becoming chief of the Harvard Law Review, some of us believe Obama was given that position out of tokenism. Certainly his academic record doesn’t justify it. It wasn’t based on merit, it’s a certainty there were a hundred Asians in Harvard who were better qualified for the job than Obama was. The Harvard staff wanted a pleasant black man as a figurehead, as a demonstration of their own liberality.

    The same might be said of many of the voters. Consider President Obama as nothing more than a timely combination of liberal self deception, Affirmative Action and the Peter Principle.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      It takes a lot of brains even to get within spitting distance of a job like that. Common sense, no; political instincts, no; grasp of American culture, no; but sheer intellectual talent — yes.

  • A Berman

    Excellent article except for the surprisingly strange justification of voting for Obama.
    ” I voted for Obama because the United States needs a government, and that is something that John McCain and the Republicans were simply unable to provide at the time. ”

    It wouldn’t have been John McCain and the Republicans- it would have been John McCain and the Democratic Senate and House. But I’m not saying anything that you don’t already know. So why did you write that?

    Without knowing you at all, here are some motivations that I saw in other people who normally would never vote for an inexperienced leftist with a Democratic-controlled House and Senate:
    1) Wanting to be part of the movement to elect our first African-American President. Alternatively, fear of *not* being part of the movement.
    2) Academic interest in the clarification that might come with a Democratic control of government and in particular, Pelosi and Obama together: “Let’s put Progressivism to the test and see what happens.”
    3) Emotional disgust with what was happening leading to deciding that Republicans deserved further punishment without thinking through what the next four years would look like.
    4) Fear of being mocked for voting for Sarah Palin (who’s record as Alaskan governor compares very favorably to Obama’s and probably would have had a much better set advisors than his syncophants had she ascended to the Presidency).

  • Peter

    “The odds still favor his [B. Hussein Obama’s]re-election in 2012, …”

    Are you nuts? Talk about being disconnected from America. The odds are closing on 50/50 if the man will even be on the Dem ticket in 2012.

    And more generally, chalk up Obama’s failed presidency to another affirmative action flop. When will we ever learn?

  • huxley

    …but sheer intellectual talent — yes.

    WRM: That certainly describes Warren Harding to a T.

    Give it up, man. Generally speaking I’m sure it does take “lots of brains” to make it to the presidency, but history has plenty of flukes, 2008 was an unusual year and Obama was an unusual candidate who wouldn’t have made it to the primaries at all if he hadn’t have been black.

    And if Obama does have oodles of “sheer intellectual talent,” wouldn’t that have manifested in some respect beyond trading on his ethnic heritage to get elected?

    Aside from grudgingly carrying out some of Bush’s policies, what has Obama done in the past two years that has worked?

  • C.Olivas

    “The man got elected president of the United States with no experience — and defeated the Clinton political machine to do it. Combine that with becoming editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review and while I wouldn’t call him omnipotent I would never call him unintelligent.”

    He did all these things with the help of a “vast left wing conspiracy”: our Liberal media. Instead of doing thoughtful analysis, they produced puff pieces and avoided tough questions. The man was never properly vetted.
    Who are the rubes? I dare ask.
    Many -usually- thoughtful journalists and commnetators were blinded by the flourish produced by his speech writers, and ignored his fatally flawed character.
    His rhetoric send “chills up many a pundit’s leg”

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  • Peter M. Todebush

    Nothing on ‘economics’. He doesn’t understand ‘private sector’ investment, employment and growth. His stimulus was pork, patronage, transfer payments and a 20 year wish list of liberal programs. The ‘headwinds’; the uncertainty of taxes, regulation and government mandates has cast a negative cloud over the private sector. Paul Volcker told Obama in Feb 2009, ‘fix the economy’ and you will be able to almost anything. Instead, Emanuel said ‘we can’t let this crisis go to waste’, and proceeded to do everything to destroy the private sector.

  • bear88

    Obama’s primary failure is that he took office after a financial crisis that was going to lead, no matter what he did, to increased unemployment and unpopularity. The official unemployment rate was about 7.5 percent when he took office; now the “official” rate is 10 percent, which no reversal in sight. Even a larger and more effective stimulus package would only have helped a little.

    I’ll overlook some of the minor criticisms, because they don’t matter. Netanyahu is going to do what he wants, regardless of what American presidents say or do. Nobody listens to criticisms by the left. The left doesn’t exist as a force in American politics.

    Obama faces an opposition party that opposes everything he does, simply because he does it. The president can’t push through a START treaty with plenty of bipartisan support because the Republicans don’t want to give him a win. There would be no objections if President McCain negotiated the same treaty, and everyone knows it.

    Some of this is a failure of Obama’s political skills, a byproduct of his inexperience. Some of it is a stupid reliance on some of the same people who helped create the economic fiasco in the first place. Some of it seems to be Obama’s foolish failure to deal with the wretched excesses of our too-powerful financial sector. Despite his portrayal as some sort of Chicago-style pol, Obama’s problems stem from a failure to confront tough opposition and learn how to confront it. He does well in professorial settings, in which his intellect shines, but that doesn’t translate to real-world politics. He comes off as a bit of a wimp. But again, that wouldn’t matter if the economy was better.

    Sadly, from my perspective, Obama’s chief achievement is to ratify Bush-era policies, on tax cuts (most likely), on torture, on civil liberties, on regulation. He doesn’t seem to grasp that his opponents do not regard him, or any Democratic president, as legitimate. This is an unfortunate turn in our politics, as it threatens to make the nation ungovernable.

  • Harry Flashman

    Astute observers in corridors of power around the world and other quarters know that Barack Obama’s greatest long term political liability and obstacle to re-election is the fast increasing awareness of the fact that he continues to conceal virtually the entire paper trail of his existence in a tight shroud of secrecy.

    American voters clearly remember the Obama 2008 campaign repeatedly promising that their administration would uphold the highest ethical standards with a particular emphasis on transparency.

    A vast majority of these voters believe that the process of running for the office of President of the United States should be the toughest public job interview on the planet.

    The sad fact remains that the current president could not be hired as a janitor in a federal building with the amount of verifiable background information that he has provided.

    Barack Obama’s original typewritten long form birth certificate, school records, SAT and LSAT scores, college and law school admission records and grade transcripts and thesis papers, medical records, passport history, Illinois state senate tenure records, presidential campaign foreign donor lists, complete White House visitor logs and other relevant records and documents have all never been released or allowed to be subjected to any sort of scrutiny, despite several years of repeated requests for disclosure by numerous individuals and non-traditional media organizations.

    The Obama 2008 campaign and subsequent administration have to date spent a considerable sum on legal fees, estimated in the millions of dollars, to fight Freedom of Information Act filings and other requests to examine this material.

    What is being hidden and why are they hiding it?

  • davelnaf

    Very insightful and well put, but I am unable to regard Obama in any positive way. The guy is too far left for his own good; something—as the author says—might never occur to him. So, why is the author optimistic that Obama might see the light and change course?

  • boqueronman

    I agree with your assessment concerning the state of the GOP by late 2008. By that time they had forgotten how they had evolved into a dominant national party following the 1994 election. They had become fat and lazy, and spendthrift, by 2006. And the voters could see it. Clearly a reward-him-for-his-longevity candidate such as McCain (see Bob Dole) was not the answer to the state of the union in November 2008. Although we might have avoided the further damage to the health care mess we already had, everything else, including the “stimulus,” was probably already baked into the cake.

    Now we live in late 2010 and lo! we have been blessed with a radical leftist opportunist – who grew up in a sealed affirmative action bubble – with no practical skills beyond reading from a teleprompter to lead the country out of the debt and demographic fueled social and economic difficulties we face. Hah! Besides “The Won” the Democrats provide what alternatives? How about a line-up of tired, aging white men and women – card carrying Welfare State and Keynesian cheerleaders all – to offer… the same old ’60s bromides! And their Amen Chorus of paid minority followers confirm their every word.

    No, what Obama can do best in 2012 is to admit he’s not up to the job and voluntarily step down and, thus, allow the various competing factions within the Democrat party to begin the cleansing and generational renewal process. As I mentioned earlier what we are seeing is the end, for at least a generation, of any chance that the Regulatory and Welfare State, with its foundation in neo-Keynesianism, will survive as anything more than a bad memory. The Western demographics of Boomer bulge and fertility rate collapse have already sealed its fate. The collateral damage may be so widespread that even the fiat money and fractional reserve banking systems will crash and burn as well.

    Politics used to be about building consensus. It’s imperative that the body politic come to grips with the rips and tears in social, political and economic fabric which, if not addressed over the medium term, will just “kick the can down the road” before the necessary medicines are taken. The Boomers and Gen-Xers have saddled the later generations, and at least the next one in line, with the burden of paying the bill for the high-life excesses of the last 20 years. So let’s begin the process of pushing the aging and clueless “perps” aside and looking to the young to rebuild, since they will be the ones living in the New Normal world.

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