It Takes a President

Posted: Sep 04, 2014 12:01 AM

350 more U.S. troops are headed to Iraq to fight a war that Obama declared over almost exactly four years ago today. “President Obama declared an end on Tuesday to the seven-year American combat mission in Iraq,” wrote the New York Times on the last day of August in 2010, “saying that the United States has met its responsibility to that country and that it is now time to turn to pressing problems at home.”

Like a lot of journalism, what the New York Times wrote that day was more of an elegy for the Obama administration and its brand of progressivism than it was news reporting. Because in the intervening years Obama has left neither this country nor Iraq-- nor the free world-- better than they were. In four years the pressing problems at home have been more institutionalized, hemmed in by regulatory schemes like Dodd-Frank and Obamacare -programs that have nothing to do with regulating anything other than political behavior.

Not only are the programs poorly designed, but the execution of these laws has been left to people who apparently can’t run anything, including even websites.

Abroad, Obama’s abdication of America’s role as the guarantor of peace and security has led to disastrous results with “real” war being fought in eastern Europe and another “real” war being fought in the Middle East. These are not small, localized conflicts either. They are regional affairs with worldwide geopolitical significance that could spill out in either direction geographically. One participant, Russia, is a nuclear power, and another participant, Iran, wants to be.

Because nuclear powers are involved, try as he might, Obama can’t quite manage to ignore either the conflict in Iraq-Syria, or the one in Ukraine. Yet Obama is determined not to jeopardize his ambitious domestic agenda with war spending. So he has devised a U.S. policy that has nothing to do with securing anything other than political cover. And to make matters even more muddled, with the usual Obama touch, he screwed up securing even political cover for himself. Now he’ll have to rely—once again—on a compliant press to pretend that, no, that wasn’t Obama who crapped all over his mess kit.

It was George Bush.

Say what you want about Bush, but he knew more about managing people than Obama does; he knew more about how government works; he knew more about learning and evolving than Professor Obama does. You may not have agreed that a tax cut was the right way to stimulate growth in the economy, but its hard to argue with record low unemployment that was enjoyed under the Bush tax cuts.

You may not have agreed with him on the war in Iraq, but eventually Bush’s policies stabilized Iraq and gave them a real chance at self-governance; a chance that Obama has squandered.

Bush, in short, knew how to grow into being a president; Obama knows nothing of the sort.

That’s because the central feature of Obama is his inability to view the world as it is. Instead, Obama demands that the world comply with his vision, as flawed as that vision may be. You can even share his flawed vision and agree that when it comes to acting on that vision Obama as a president has been a terrific failure.

It takes more than broad proclamations of success for passing Obamacare or ending the war in Iraq to institute the change you want; it takes more than just being elected president and declaring victory.

It takes being a president to get things done.

And that is the one thing Obama will never, ever learn to be.