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Sat Jun 21, 2014, 03:08 PM

Barack Obama's presidency is spiraling downward (by a UChicago professor) [View all]

The Chicago Tribune published this op-ed on Tuesday. It's by Charles Lipson, a political science professor at the University of Chicago. Lipson has taught there since 1977, so he's been in the faculty at the same time Obama taught at the UChicago law school (1992-2004). But he's basically comparing Obama's controversies with GW Bush's controversies:

"Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job." That was George W. Bush's infamous compliment to Michael Brown, his then-director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It came as New Orleans lay flooded after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, with thousands of homeless victims trapped in the Superdome. Brown was not doing "a heckuva job." He was failing badly, and the public knew it.

What made Bush's accolade clunk so loudly? Why do we remember it years later? Because that single, maladroit phrase captured so much that had gone wrong with Bush's presidency. He praised incompetent managers instead of firing them, and he seemed cheerfully clueless about what was happening on the ground.


The Obama administration, which had few serious setbacks during its first term, is now engulfed by them: the disastrous rollout of the Affordable Care Act, the unraveling story about Benghazi, Libya, the IRS targeting of conservative groups, the casual (and ignored) red line in Syria, Iraq's disintegration after America left abruptly, al-Qaida's resurgence, the secret waiting list and falsified data at the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Taliban prisoners swap. The president's defenders have explanations for each of them, but the problems are cumulating.


One obvious theme is that Obama, like Bush, is a poor manager. He doesn't pay attention to crucial details, surrounds himself with sycophants and doesn't hold anyone accountable. The poster child for these deficiencies is Kathleen Sebelius, who ran Health and Human Services during the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Sebelius failed to anticipate the HealthCare.gov disaster and the president never inquired. When the rollout failed disastrously, Obama calmly announced he was angry, but retained Sebelius. (He did the same with Gen. Eric Shinseki at Veterans Affairs.)


OK, there's a fallacy right there with "IRS targeting of conservative groups." According to Wikipedia: "The only tax-exempt status denial by the IRS involved the revocation of a previously granted tax-exempt status for a progressive group." With all these hearings by Congress, not one right wing group has successfully been able to demonstrate "I'VE BEEN PERSECUTED BY THE BIG BAD EVIL IRS!!!!!" Second, this whole "controversy" over the IRS misses the whole freaking point about a basic principle that groups applying for 501(c) charitable/"social welfare" status should not be electioneering!!!!!

And at the end crosses into a Glenn Beck style of argumentation:

The low point came when the president embraced Sgt. Bergdahl's parents in the Rose Garden. Thinking the public would cheer Bergdahl's release, Obama took a victory lap. Bad call. The administration has been showered with tough questions instead of confetti. Why did Obama release a murderers' row of Taliban generals? Why did he refuse to tell anyone in Congress beforehand, as he was legally required to do? Is the president floating a trial balloon to empty Guantanamo? Could the newly released Taliban plan deadly attacks? Will the swap encourage Islamic terrorists to kidnap other Americans? The White House is still fumbling for answers.


First, Congress has known as early as 2012 about the prisoner swap. Second, the release of the "Taliban Five" was going to happen anyway due to the US military leaving Afghanistan this year.

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