The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

An on-point evaluation of President Obama

There used to be a newspaper published in Washington, D. C., The Washington Examiner, which I enjoyed reading. Some time ago, the paper ceased publication, except for an online presence that still continues. Recently I saw a column by Noemie Emery on the Examiner's site, which I found quite interesting. Her columns in the Examiner when it was in print often reflected my own thought, and I think this column also shows a great insight, so I would like to reprint it.

President Obama, wrote the Washington Post's Greg Jaffe in a recent story about the president's view of his country, articulates “his vision of a nation that can acknowledge and, learn from, its mistakes.” Would that this vision applied to himself.

Now comes the main point, one that I think characterizes this President above all things that have been written about him:

Not only does Obama never learn from mistakes, he doesn't think that he makes them, and he denies that they even exist. Any regrets for the way he passed healthcare? Not that you'd notice. Any regrets about leaving Iraq? Nope — he still thinks he “ended two wars,” which the other side keeps on fighting.

The conventional view of what has gone wrong — that Obama lacked experience, and that first-term senators should be viewed with suspicion — is undercut by the fact that he has had six years of experience, and failed to learn from it. At home and abroad, Obama makes mistakes over and over, with the same result, and takes nothing from them. He disses his friends, placates aggressors and seems surprised that aggressors advance and whole regions catch fire.

He refuses to bargain with Congress, insults opponents, imposes unpopular policies by fiat and seems surprised when his measures result in court challenges, when polarization increases, opposition solidifies, divisions harden and gridlock prevails. Deal-making is the essence of politics, but Obama finds it demeaning, so he resorts to brute force when he has the means to (as in the still-festering matter of healthcare). Alternatively, as with immigration, Obama resorts to executive actions that stir angry resistance and are frequently halted by courts.

This has gone on since 2009, but Dana Milbank noticed only when Obama began slighting Democrats, whereupon he began taking offense. “Rather than accept that they have a legitimate beef, he shows public contempt for them,” the Washington Post columnist complains, writing that Obama dissed fellow Democrats to friendly reporters as being short-sighted and dense. (Of course, he's done that for years to Republicans, but they seem not to matter.) If Franklin Roosevelt was described as having a commonplace intellect but a brilliantly tempered political character, Obama seems to be his ultimate opposite: A man with an intellect that delights the elite but a temperament that is counterproductive in matters of government. This combination seems to work much less well.

A comparison with his predecessors is instructive.

Presidents can sometimes repair their mistakes, but only after they realize they've made them, which is something Obama can't do. George W. Bush stayed with his failed Iraq strategy until a bloody year followed by a political bloodbath in the 2006 midterms forced him to change course dramatically. John Kennedy failed in the Bay of Pigs and then in his first face-to-face meeting with Nikita S. Khrushchev, when he compounded his first bad impression by seeming irresolute.

Sensing at once that he had made a grave error — “He savaged me,” Kennedy said later of the Russian leader — he doubled the draft, increased defense spending and took Dwight Eisenhower's advice to have his councilors argue their cases before him and each other (instead of one at a time and in isolation), which led to the peaceful solution of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

But admitting mistakes — and taking advice — are not the skill set of the current incumbent, who finds them demeaning. The learning curve of the 35th president between l961-63 had been exponential, while, as Josef Joffe recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, “the 44th president's learning curve has been flat for six years.”

It's not lack of experience that hampers Obama; it's his refusal to learn a thing from it. That's the trait we can't have in the 45th president — and the one we must strive to avoid.

A valuable observation, and one with which I heartily concur.

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