Very Very Scary

How Obama makes decisions.


Ron Suskind’s book Confidence Men portrays Barack Obama as being confounded by his duties as president. Some of the scenes depicted by Suskind would be comical if they were not so tragic for America.

For example, when Obama’s experts assembled to discuss the scope and intricacies of the stimulus bill, Barack Obama was out of his depth. He was “surprisingly aloof in the conversation” and seemed “disconnected and less in control.” His contributions were rare and consisted of blurting out such gems of wisdom as “There needs to be more inspiration here!” and “What about more smart grids” and — one more that Newt Gingrich would appreciate — “we need more moon shot” (pages 154-5).

Suskind writes:

Members of the team were perplexed…for the first time in the transition, people started to wonder just how prepared the man at the helm was. He repeated a similar sorry performance when he had a conference call with Speaker Pelosi and her staff to discuss the details of the planned stimulus bill. He shouted into the speakerphone that “this stimulus needs more inspiration! Pelosi and her staff visibly rolled their eyes.”

Presidential exhortations more befitting a summer camp counselor will evoke such reactions.

Several months ago, I cited a study of Woodrow Wilson written by Sigmund Freud and William Bullitt:

Throughout his life he took intense interest only in subjects which could somehow be connected with speech…He took no interest in mathematics, science, art or music–except in singing himself, a form of speaking. His method of thinking about a subject seems to have been to imagine himself making a speech about it…He seems to have thought about political or economic problems only when he was preparing to make a speech about them either on paper or from the rostrum. His memory was undoubtedly of the vaso-motor type. The use of his vocal chords was to him inseparable from thinking.

To Obama, it’s all about the speeches, all about the hype. Despite his faux reputation as an intellectual, the man has remarkably little interest in contemplation, analysis, or problem-solving.

28 thoughts on “Very Very Scary”

  1. Sooner or later everything catches up.

    I do think there is more than intellectualism that comprises a good President. In fact the Presidents consioderred “intellectuals” have usually fared rather low on the acomplishment scale. Wilson, Carter, what are some others?

    Jimmy Carter is certainly on the intellectual side – I would think most people would agree – but he tended to want to micromanage things.

    Reagan’s detractors would snidely comment on his lack of intelligence yet he is one of the 20th century’s most revered Presidents. (I personally would not concede to any “lack of intelligence” to Reagan)

    Eisenhower was certainly no brilliant military tactician but he and Reagan had one important thing in common. Well, at least 2. They got along with people – try keeping Montgomery, Patton,Bradley, Churchill and Roosevelt all happy.

    They knew how to delegate and surrounded themselves with good people.

    I don’t think Obama is what you would call “smart” – everything he has had has been handed to him.

    And I see no evidence of delegation prowess.

  2. Anon…”I do think there is more than intellectualism that comprises a good President.” Agree. Executive management, which includes effective delegation, is a difficult and essential skill, and it is learned mostly by doing and by learning directly from those who are good at it.

    Regarding Reagan, the Left loved to attack him for his supposed shallowness, with quips like:

    “You can wade through Ronald Reagan’s deepest thoughts without getting your ankles wet”

    …and made much of his background as an actor, which they claimed demonstrated the triviality of his mind (funny they don’t make the same argument about all the Hollywood types now supporting the Left.)

    Yet Reagan was able to string coherent thoughts and arguments together in a way that we have not seen, and are not likely to see, from Obama.

  3. So Saul Alinsky’s boy is now President. A useful idiot supported by an anti-American cabal.

    Let us suppose he does not want to destroy America. Fiest off he has to replace his Marxist economic POV.

    An honest man would confess his ignorance and enlist the aid of America’s best Economics profs to teach him. A genius would only need 6 months of intensive study. (Krugman, Mankiw, Austrian School, et al) Obama needs to learn all the stuff he missed while studying revolutionary theory and Marxist economics. Obama also needs some accurate History lessons. Perhaps another 6 months intensive study with War College profs to find out what can and cannot be done at various levels of force.

    Sadly, Obama prefers to cling to his red flag and book of Marx and hide behind a smokescreen of bombast. He is supported by people who want to destroy America so that they can remove a competitor and also profit by finding treaure in the rubble.

  4. Sol – I think it was a group of economists, let by Milton Friedman – all University of Chicago – that saved Chile –

    Of course Obama would have to have a smaller ego to realize that he doesn’t know everything – and enlist the help of others more capable.

    My father and I were having a discussion last week on who will be remembered as a worse President – Carter or Obama?

    He thought Obama for what he has done to the national debt.

    He has a point.

    David – I think that is a secret – maybe the secret – of effective management – getting people smarter than you on a particular subject to help you…

    On Reagan – I think one of his strongest attributes was having big ideas and having the wherewithal to implement them. Plenty of people have big ideas.

    Few have the courage – or knowledge – on how to make them happen.

    Imagining that you could effectively defeat the Soviet Union – and then implementing the ideas.

    From what I have read of him turning down Gorbachev’s offer at Iceland was the hardest thing he had to do – and he got a ton of criticism here for it – but that bold move was the beginning of the end of the USSR.

  5. Regarding Woodrow Wilson, here is the impression he made on John Maynard Keynes at the treaty negotiations that ended WWI:

    “His thought and his temperament wore essentially theological not intellectual, with all the strength and the weakness of that manner of thought, feeling, and expression.”

    “But in fact the President had thought out nothing; when it came to practice his ideas were nebulous and incomplete. He had no plan, no scheme, no constructive ideas whatever for clothing with the flesh of life the commandments which he had thundered from the White House. He could have preached a sermon on any of them or have addressed a stately prayer to the Almighty for their fulfilment; but he could not frame their concrete application…”

    From “The Economic Consequences of the Peace”

    Sounds like a contemporary personality, doesn’t it?

  6. Bill….”I think that is a secret – maybe the secret – of effective management – getting people smarter than you on a particular subject to help you…”

    Totally agree.

    But also, the problem of figuring out who these smarter people are, when they can be trusted, and which ones to trust when they disagree is nontrivial: Kaiser Wilhelm and the train schedules.

  7. Sol…I don’t think Obama is actually a classic Marxist, though he is unquestionably very influenced by Marxist ideas. He does not seek actual government *ownership* of the means of production: that would imply that the government would have to take actual responsibility for the performance of those entities. Just imagine: if the government owned the oil companies, people who were upset about gasoline prices or oil spills would be looking with baleful eyes in the *government’s* direction. Much preferable, from Obama’s point of view, to leave the means of production theoretically in private hands while increasingly hog-tying and commanding them.

    The name for this is economic fascism.

  8. Actually, effective management does not mean delegating to persons smarter than you, necessarily. You delegate to those better suited for doing the job. The best managers delegate to those best suited for doing the job. Knowing the difference is where intelligence comes to play.

  9. Another Anonymous –

    That principle is the inverse of the famous “Peter Principle”, isn’t it? ;-)

    You know, the rule that states that “in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence” ;-)

    At least that seems to be the rule when you call a “help center”

  10. Anon….”better at doing the job”…yes, but this may (does not always) imply better intelligence of particular kinds. It’s quite possible that your star salesman may have higher emotional intelligence than your own (although your own had better be pretty decent if you’re in any kind of management position), your star R&D guy has a higher IQ, and ALL of your toolmakers have better 3-D visualization skills than your own.

    A general sign of a bad manager is someone who believes he could do every job better than the person who is actually doing it, and that he needs employees at all simply because there aren’t enough hours in the day for him to do it all.

    Here’s Exhibit A:

    “I think I’m a better speech writer than my speech writers. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m . . . a better political director than my political director.”

    This is Barack Obama, of course, and it is pathological.

  11. The 1914 German high command is an example of the worst as the kaiser’s staff did not tell him everything because he was so mercurial. von Moltke has been recognized a mediocre thinker since 1914. Fascism probably began with Wilson. It was 1925 when Mussolini came up with the concept of Fascism. Wilson preceded him by 10 years. Harding had a very modest intellect but was humble and acted on what he knew about economics. It worked. There books coming out this year about his life.

    Still, even with these examples, I don’t think you can find a government more trapped by its own ideology than the Obama bunch. They can’t get anything right. He doesn’t listen; he is reported to spend his evenings alone reading. He doesn’t like politicians or people in general. Harry Truman would be having poker games. Reagan was similar to Truman in his gregarious relations with political rivals.

  12. David Foster. “ownership” of the means of production is not needed to implement Marxism. The rulers control airlines by regulating when and where the planes fly; how much they can charge; who can be employed; the hours they can work; what tasks they can perform; what sort of aircraft they can fly; how it can be maintained.

    The same is true for trucking and railroads; mining and oil drilling. Farmers, if their farms are in a watershed (and which farms are not?) are told which crops they can plant, when they can plant them; how to plow and how to harvest; what seeds to use and which fertilizers; who can work on the farm and what they can do or not do; what equipment can be used. The family farm is dying and only corporate farms can hire enough lawyers and accountants to deal with regulators.

    America has a ruling class. They are the regulators who have to power to make up rules when they want them, enforce them when they want, and hold court to judge challenges. They are the IRS, the EPA and all the other heads of the hydra.

    This system of central planning, central control and rulers who make rules, enforce their own rules, and have the power to judge those who break their rules has existed for all of recorded history. It exists in the most primitive societies in the Amazon jungle, on lonely islands in the Pacific, in the Australia outback. It goes by many names. In the Middle Ages it was called Feudalism. In Russia “Communism”. In China it did not matter if the rulers were members of the imperial court or the Communist party. The peasants did the work. The ruler ruled.

    200 years ago the founding fathers created an experiment fot a New World. Let the peasants produce as much as they want, whatever they want, whenever they want, how ever they want and let them keep everything they produce. No matter how much. The Founders said that God gave the peasants inalienable rights – the most important were listed in the Bill of Rights.

    Sadly the experiment produced unparalleled prosperity and some peasants became richer than the richest rulers. So the rulers (they are the ones with the guns) ended the experiment and created the income tax, the regulatory agencies, and they put the peasants in their place. The rulers declared God was dead and therefore God did not give the peasants any rights. The peasants have only those rights granted by the rulers and the most important right is the Right to Obey.

    Today we have three classes. The rulers, the leisure class, and the peasants. The rulers call it “socialism” or “progressivism” and the peasants are called the middle class.

    As Newt pointed out in the Arizona debate “Government over-regulation can only lead to tyranny”.

  13. Has there been even one time that Obama has said anything that showed any insight about anything? My suspicion is that his IQ is below his body temperature. Not that a high guarantees anything, but its absence shows here. This guy is a SLOW learner- if he learns anything.
    Think any of his school records will ever see the light of day?

  14. David – that story of the Kaiser and von Moltke is interesting on several levels. I was astounded at how easily – and for such superficial reasons – these western nations slid into war. With the resulting deaths of 10s of millions.

    “If you turn around I won’t attack” – clearly no overriding national interest.

    And then for von Moltke to deliberately disobey the Kaiser’s orders. The word treasonous came to mind.

    And the Kaiser was weak for not sacking von Moltke and making sure the order was carried out. Say what you want about Truman – when MacArthur deliberately defied him the President removed him.

    And finally the whole issue of “who to believe” is so true in the area of intelligence gathering – and how do you interpret the facts that have been presented to you?

    Iraq and WMD. Warnings of the Japanese intentions to FDR. The list is long.

    It is clear that Obama should have taken with a “grain of salt” the advice of his economic advisers – with the resulting ballooning of our national debt.

  15. renminbi – when you combine arrogance and narcissism with “slow learner” you have a deadly combination.

  16. “They got along with people – try keeping Montgomery, Patton,Bradley, Churchill and Roosevelt all happy. ”

    I am reading a book about Montgomery and Bradley and the Battle of the Falaise Gap. I am only a little way into it but it seems pretty certain that Montgomery overruled Bradley in closing the gap. Patton was so furious at being ordered to stop at Argentan that he began keeping an exact record of every order and communication. The British were determined to remain co-equals with the Americans but they didn’t have the manpower. Bradley, in his memoirs and Eisenhower in his book lied about the Falaise Gap battle but Bradley got confused and changed his story between the 1951 and 1983 editions. Patton believed the war could have been ended right there and thousands of lives saved but he died before he could write his version. It’s a story known by every military historian but not written about.

  17. David, your post reminds me of an anecdote in the first volume of the recent biography of Robert Heinlein.

    In the mid-1930s, Heinlein worked on Upton Sinclair’s campaign for governor of California. Heinlein was 27 years old, but he’d been a midshipman with aeronautical engineering training; he’d learned to operate the ballistics computers on a state-of-the-art aircraft carrier; and he’d prosecuted and defended cases of shipboard malfeasance. He’d sailed to foreign ports, sat in on graduate courses in math and physics at UCLA, dabbled in drawing and sculpture and photography, studied fencing and Esperanto, memorized entire books of verse, and was on his second marriage. In 1935, he was gung-ho to help get Sinclair elected.

    But then: “A little of the luster dimmed for Heinlein, though, when he discovered Sinclair could not do simple arithmetic in his head–even though Sinclair had expected to run an economics-driven bureaucracy.” (Learning Curve, hardcover, p. 186)

  18. BHO may have been an adequate affirmative action student. He may be a dismal president but, from what I’ve heard and what I suspect, a public vetting of his appointments and advisers would make your hair stand on end.

  19. Michael – that is an interesting story about Montgomery. Wasn’t he the one behind the ill-fated operation Market-Garden?

    He was a prima donna but then so was Patton. As you read about these things you realize politics has as much to do with battle planning as actual tactics.

    Eisenhower had to keep the coalition together.

  20. Montgomery is still an icon in Britain but more books are starting to dismantle his reputation. According to the one I’m reading (I left it in the mountains and can’t get back to it until next weekend), Montgomery lied to Ike and never changed his plan to drive to the Baltic. Eisenhower covered for him to avoid breaking up the alliance. According to the book, Bradley was a very reluctant participant and, after Falaise, the alliance existed only in the newspapers. Market Garden was one more Montgomery fiasco. The theory I’m reading is that Montgomery and the other British generals never got over World War I strategy with its emphasis on artillery.

  21. ‘renminbi – when you combine arrogance and narcissism with “slow learner” you have a deadly combination.’

    Indeed. You should remember it’s actually GW Bush that put the vehicle in the ditch. Massive expenditure and tax cuts will do a number on anyone’s balance sheet.

    Obama has been trying to do something to fix this. Of course he and none of you seem to understand the corporate take over of your state, pretty well done now, is why your economy has tanked so badly. They are not especially smart.

  22. “Montgomery is still an icon in Britain but more books are starting to dismantle his reputation. According to the one I’m reading (I left it in the mountains and can’t get back to it until next weekend), Montgomery lied to Ike and never changed his plan to drive to the Baltic. Eisenhower covered for him to avoid breaking up the alliance. According to the book, Bradley was a very reluctant participant and, after Falaise, the alliance existed only in the newspapers. Market Garden was one more Montgomery fiasco. The theory I’m reading is that Montgomery and the other British generals never got over World War I strategy with its emphasis on artillery.”

    Monty was a prima donna alright. He was also the best general in the coalition. Ike was torn by politics and his aggressive but stupid American generals.

    It was Market Garden that devoured the German armor and let Bradley run free on the right flank when Monty had finished with his grind. He was the master of grind and although the breakouts and other flashy media worthy events fill the books it is the grind that wins wars. If Monty had let Bradley go too early the German armor, considerably better than anything the allies had, would have stopped him dead.

    To this day, in actual war, artillery is the “Queen of Battle”. You should understand you have just fought police actions against poorly equipped enemies, that is hardly war. Well the Iraqi army was almost able to offer war but they had decided to surrender long before the troops arrived.

    The Iranians will be different.

  23. I’m dyslexic. Hi ho. Market Garden was the Arnhem breakout attempt. I was referring to the Cannes grind of course.

    Had it worked the war would have been shortened considerably.

  24. Pengun – if you think most conservatives will staunchly defend George Bush you are mistaken. Most of the time he had all of Congress and with the executive could have implemented all the conservative principles we “assumed” he had at the beginning.

    But blaming him solely for “putting the vehicle in the ditch?”

    You can give a lot of the blame to Barney Frank – Chis Dodd and Fannie Mae – the later – like the Post Office – a devil’s concoction of part govt and part private –

    It is amazing – well it isn’t for partisan reasons – that former Fannie Mae Franklin Raines wasn’t doing the” Perp Walk” like the Enron People – but he made sure lots of Congressmen were handsomely paid in their campaign chests.

    Montgomery – I can’t deny that ultimately he was a great tactician – the only one who stopped Rommel in North Africa after I think 2 previous British Generals. But the greatest general in WW2?

    My vote would go to Douglas MacArthur – arrogance and all. William Manchester – and old Marine who fought in Okinawa – wrote a book about him American Caesar – he conquered more area at less cost than any other modern General.

    He didn’t grind the Japanese down – he just bypassed them letting them starve…

  25. “Monty was a prima donna alright. He was also the best general in the coalition. ” I understand you probably got those ideas with your mother’s milk.

    El Alamein was a massive artillery battle. QED Monty never lost a battle. Just ask him. Every battle he ever fought turned out exactly as he planned. It makes no difference that Caen (not Cannes) was a D +1 objective. How about showing us some more of your ignorance?

    Just kidding.

  26. Michael – more interesting discussions! I was thinking this evening – after reading your last post – of U.S. Grant – and the trouble Lincoln had in finding a Union general who could stand up to Lee – Churchill having trouble finding a general against Rommel – do you think Monty would be comparable to Grant?

    I like to think of Rommel as a German Robert E. Lee – Both fought with numerically inferior armies yet fought brilliantly. Both were starved for supplies – Hitler wanting to divert more and more to the Eastern Front.

    Grant was not thought of as a brilliant tactician – but he ground Lee down. I have his memoirs on his shelf – been meaning to read them for years.

    I think the book saved his family from bankruptcy.

  27. Once again, Heinlein’s Razor is vindicated: “Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity”

  28. Vader – I agree totally. I don’t believe Obama is a Marxist for the simple reason that I don’t believe he understands economics well enough to understand Marxism. He is, in fact, exactly what should have been expected from someone whose background is limited to ‘community activism’.

Comments are closed.