An article in Business Week titled Obama Is Too Cool for Crisis Management (@JoshuaGreen) uses the administration’s management of the Ebola crisis, a crisis that is 100% the creation of the administration, to criticize how Obama has responded to the non-ending series of crises his administration has faced. Despite the title the article is generally positive. It blames the public for not understanding Obama. It blames Republicans for being big meanies. It blames the size of the job that stretches even the supernatural powers of a Lightworker.
It’s true that Obama’s task is made considerably more difficult by the antipathy that has marked the Republicans’ response to Ebola. Most seem more intent on stopping Democrats than on stopping the contagion. Their ads politicizing the virus have only added to the climate of fear. And their filibuster of Obama’s surgeon general nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy, has also silenced an authoritative voice on public health, for reasons as small-minded as those dictating the party’s line on Ebola: They’re carrying water for the National Rifle Association, which objects to classifying gun violence as a public-health issue.
Even so, the failure is mostly Obama’s. It didn’t require extraordinary foresight to anticipate the public freakout once the infection spread beyond Duncan. Obama, who’s better acquainted with Washington dysfunction than anybody, should have anticipated the partisan acrimony. The crisis required more of him than he seemed to recognize. But he was hampered by the same things that have plagued him all along: a liberal technocrat’s excess of faith in government’s ability to solve problems and an unwillingness or inability to demonstrate the forcefulness Americans expect of their president in an emergency.
This is really too kind… and hogwash.
Nevertheless, this has prompted the ever subservient staff at The New Republic to ask Why Can’t the Media Give Obama Credit for Crisis Management? (@DannyVinik). Incredibly the author holds up the VA scandal and ISIS examples of just how well Obama manages crises if only his idiot colleagues in the media would just notice:
Green’s article criticizes Obama’s entire style of crisis management. (The piece is titled, “Obama Is Too Cool for Crisis Management.”) The White House has faced this critique frequently over the past year, from both the left and right, as it has rushed from one crisis to the next. Yet collectively, Obama’s responses to these numerous crises—from the scandal at Veteran Affairs hospital and the border crisis to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and most recently the Ebola outbreak—has been largely successful so far. The insatiable news media just hasn’t noticed.
Their failure to notice would stem largely from the fact that despite their general leftwing hackery, they do inhabit reality. For instance, USA Today has a helpful timeline of the VA crisis. Note that this crisis started in 2012, after Eric Shinski had been at the helm for six years. The crisis attained supernova status in April. The administration attempted to fix the situation by pretending to fire someone who was scheduled to retire. Then they attempted to promote someone who was deeply embroiled in the crisis as head of veterans health services. Finally, on May 30, Shinseki had had all the fun he could stand and resigned. And to celebrate that the culture had changed, the VA ran a victory lap:
The Department of Veterans Affairs is promoting an administrator who advised against publicly disclosing a deadly Legionnaires’ outbreak at its Pittsburgh hospital system, the agency told Congress.
David Cord, deputy director of VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System since June 2012, will become director of the Erie VA Medical Center within 60 days, the VA informed Congress.
The VA disclosed the Legionnaires’ outbreak that killed at least six and sickened at least 16 others on Nov. 16, 2012 — two days after Cord told a VA spokesman not to alert the public about it, according to an internal email from the spokesman obtained as part of a Tribune-Review investigation.
That anyone can call handling ISIS a success, when it is a creation of the Obama administration, leaves one breathless with the audacity of it all. The Washington Examiner has looked at how Obama handles crises and makes a good case that it follows a pattern:
Step 1: Avoid getting any skin in the game for as long as possible. Allow Cabinet members to take the heat in headlines and congressional hearings.
Step 2: Have White House press secretary Jay Carney repeatedly express confidence in the Cabinet secretary caught up in the controversy. Rinse and repeat for days, weeks or months.
Step 3: When public attention reaches a tipping point, have White House officials speak out on the Sunday shows, conveying the president’s outrage and commitment to solve the problem.
Step 4: Make a public statement, expressing anger and asking the public for patience while an internal review is conducted.
Step 5: Bring in a fixer from inside the White House or outside government to solve the problem while leaving existing staff nominally in charge.
But contrary to what @JoshuaGreen writes in Business Week, the problem isn’t that Obama relies on technocratic solutions or has an overweening faith in government. There are two underlying features which provide a Unified Theory of Obama Crisis Management.
Obama views every crisis as a political opportunity to be taken advantage of. As a result the problem metastasizes as White House policy staff try do decide the best way to garner some transient advantage. It doesn’t matter to them if veterans die while awaiting appointments. Or if thousands of Iraqis and Syrians are slaughtered by ISIS. Or if your life is jeopardized by a usually fatal tropical disease. The real world considerations are purely secondary to the ephemeral: which constituency will this please? how can we expand government using this crisis as a stalking horse?
All of these bad decisions emanate from the same small circle of Marxist cronies that adhere to Obama much as lint hangs onto Velcro. Ron Klain, Joe Biden’s chief of staff, is nominal Ebola Czar (see point 5 in the Washington Examiner checklist). He may very well be the victim of a serial killer as he’s not been seen in a while. Who does he report to? Susan Rice. What is Rice most adept at? Lying. Shamelessly. We know that most of the CDC’s response to Ebola but has come from the White House. Virtually every bad decision that has been made in this administration… other than those by Eric Holder who is something of a virtuoso at creating crises… can be traced to Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice, or Samantha Power.
We are seeing this underway again. In today’s New York Times we are told that Kerry and Hagel may be on the way out:
Mr. Obama is also leaning more than ever on his small circle of White House aides, who forged their relationships with him during his 2008 campaign and loom even larger in an administration without weighty voices like those of Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary, or Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former secretary of state.
Over the Columbus Day weekend, the White House chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, traveled to the San Francisco home of [mc_name name=’Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’F000062′ ], the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, to negotiate personally over redactions in a Senate report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation policies after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.That Mr. McDonough would get involved in such an arcane matter puzzles some legislative aides on Capitol Hill, given the other demands on his time. But it testifies to how Mr. Obama tends to hand delicate assignments to his most trusted advisers. Mr. Kerry and Mr. Hagel, meanwhile, are struggling to penetrate the tightly knit circle around the president and carve out a place in the administration.
Kerry and Hagel are about to be cut out of managing the ISIS response, and to great extent they already have been by the appointment of retired General John Allen as plenipotentiary to regional allies. Cutting Hagel and Kerry out of decisions is a much better decision than putting them in a decisionmaking position to begin with, but bringing the decisions back to the same group of half-wits who engineered the rise of ISIS is not a good idea.
On the positive side of the ledger, we only have to survive two more years of this nonsense before we can begin to recreate a federal government that can actually do its job and not simply act as public affairs agent and ruthless gangland enforcer for the administration. Unless we elect Hillary Clinton.