The oil spill reveals what kind of (non)president we have

July 1, 2010

Dick Morris has pegged what President Obama’s strengths and weaknesses are as president: He is a legislator, a lawyer, and a populist big-spender. Obama is not an executive. I remember some months ago a pundit analyzed Obama’s picks for his inner circle. Unfortunately I can’t remember her name. She said that the whole team was geared towards advancing legislation. The sense I get is he sees his role as “legislator in chief”. He wants to rewrite the rules, not deal in “special cases”. Another way of looking at it is he’s rather like an architect. An architect does not deal with the mishaps of building the structure they’ve designed. That’s the general contractor’s job. Who’s the “contractor” in this scenario? The federal bureaucracy. From what I’ve been hearing lately, this is the reason for the slow and tepid response to the oil spill. He’s letting the bureaucracy deal with it.

It reminds me of something Yuri Maltsev said about the Soviet Union when people would wait in long lines to buy toilet paper. He said that in the Soviet system all of the prices of products were required to be set by their leaders. The problem was the leaders were “big thinkers”. They spent most of their time on major items like the space program, not on “little” things like toilet paper, condoms, etc. So shortages of products developed, because the market was totally inflexible. We’re dealing with a similar situation here. The incidental items are “too little” for Obama. So he doesn’t want to deal with them. At the same time, since the federal government has its fingers in so many little things, it’s obstructing the ability of the people to solve our nation’s problems by themselves. More than once federal bureaucracies have gotten in the way of citizens’ efforts to help clean up the oil spill. The federal government has also interfered in a big way in our economy, putting a damper on private efforts to revive it.

I think this explains the Obama Administration’s tone deafness on the economy. He’s just not into it. However, a lot of Americans think that it’s the president’s job to try to make the economy better YESTERDAY, and to help immediately with things like this oil spill.

Unfortunately we don’t have that kind of president. He is about making big things happen, but it all has to do with reorganizing the government, and supposedly “having a plan” for his and his supporters’ agendas. He is not “Johnny on the stick”, managing crises as they arise. Rather he sees crises as opportunities to advance his agenda, because his agenda is what he’s all about.