18.12.13

ALL FAIL THE MESSIAH.

Barbara Walters speaks the truth.

The scales fall from Peggy Noonan's eyes.
I have begun to worry about the basic competency of the administration, its ability to perform the most fundamental duties of executive management. One reason I worry is that I frequently speak with people who interact with the White House, and when I say, “That place just doesn’t seem to work,” they don’t defend it, they offer off-the-record examples of how poorly the government is run. One thing that’s clear this holiday season: New York’s Democrats, to the degree they ever loved the president, don’t love him anymore, and have moved on. They are not thinking about what progress he might make in Washington next year, they’re talking about what Hillary might do the year after that.
The cult of the presidency still has its power, but ominous signs proliferate.
I’ve never worried about this with any previous administration, ever.

“They mistook the White House for the government,” said an experienced old friend, a journalist and Democratic sympathizer. We were having holiday dinner and the talk turned to White House management. His thesis was that Obama and his staffers thought they could run the government from there, from the White House campus, and make big decisions that would be executed. They thought the White House was the government, but the government is a vast web of executive agencies that have to be run under close scrutiny, and within their campuses, to produce even minimally competent work.

I have come to see this as “West Wing” Disease. Young staffers grew up watching that show and getting a very romantic and specific sense of how government works. “The West Wing” was White House-centric. It never took place at the Agriculture Department. But government takes place at the Agriculture Department.

Anyway, my friend made me think of a story about Harry Truman. On leaving the White House after the 1952 election of Dwight Eisenhower, Truman made a small prediction about the general and his presidency. From memory: Eisenhower, Truman said, will pick up the phone and say do this and do that, pull this lever, and he’ll be shocked when nothing happens.

Ike was a general used to giving orders within an organization that takes the order and executes. But a government has to be leaned on every day, through management talent earned by experience. Generals can issue orders but federal agencies must be gently guided and clubbed around the head, every day.
Yes, and generals have a clear set of objectives (occupy Baghdad, cross the Rhine, return to Luzon, cut the railroads into Petersburg). That government has become too intrusive fails to register. David Brooks, in fact, sees in the Failure of Presidential Power reason to Further Expand Presidential Power.
We don’t need bigger government. We need more unified authority. Take power away from the rentier groups who dominate the process. Allow people in those authorities to exercise discretion. Find a president who can both rally a majority, and execute a policy process.
Cato's Gene Healy is apparently so taken aback by the argument that he doesn't even note that rentier groups follow governmental power, and governmental power feeds off of rentiers, no matter who is in charge.  Christopher Johnson, however, nails it.
Barack Obama just rolled out DemocraticPartyCare, the single worst piece of American legislations since the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  But let’s give him morepower so even MORE harmful bills will be passed things will “get done.”

Here’s an idea, digusting little suck-up, er, Dave.  What say US presidents stop trying to be “historic?”  What say that they deal with the actual problems they have in front of them rather than inventing global “problems” and then ineptly “solving” those?
Once upon a time, John Maynard Keynes wished that economists might be regarded as dependable, humble practitioners, like dentists. We've seen how well that worked out.  Changing the expectation for presidents, nay for Washington politicians generally is a task several orders of magnitude tougher.  It might take even more serious government failure to change minds.

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