The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Small Teeth

The Obama administration seems paralyzed by the VA scandal. Unlike the many other scandals that have plagued his presidency, this one cannot be overcome with lies, stonewalling, and public relations. It will not be buried by the media (as virtually every other Obama scandal has been) and it won't go away. The president's lack of decisive action is no longer viewed as careful deliberation, but rather as fecklessness.

Peggy Noonan decribes the situation accurately when she writes:
The president's inattention to management—his laxity, his failure to understand that government isn't magic, that it must be forced into working, clubbed each day into achieving adequacy, and watched like a hawk—is undercutting what he stands for, the progressive project that says the federal government is the primary answer to the nation's ills.

He is allowing the federal government to become what any large institution will become unless you stop it: a slobocracy.

The president and his staff don't seem to know that by the time things start bubbling up from the agencies and reach the Oval Office the scandal has already happened, even if it's not in the press yet, and the answer isn't to prepare proactive spin but to clean up the mess, end the scandal, fire people—a lot of people—establish accountability, change bad practices, and make the agency work again.

The administration's sharpest attention goes to public relations, not reality. This time even their spin has failed. They didn't fully apprehend the moment or the media landscape. Media people, cable and mainstream, are very, very interested in showing their respect for and engagement with veterans. They made a mistake with the veterans of Vietnam; they'll never make it again. They like being helpful to heroes, and it does them good to be associated with regular men and women who've served. Vets, their friends and families comprise a significant share of the audience. The VA scandal not only allows journalists to stand up for vets, it allows them to demonstrate, at just the right moment—in the waning years of the administration, with the president's numbers low and his standing wobbly—a certain detachment from Mr. Obama's fortunes. They're independent.
It's the last paragraph in Noonan's comments that is the most insightful. After almost six years of actively protecting a presidency that has repeatedly demonstrated its incompetence, mendaciousness, and divisiveness, the main stream media can now begin to criticize, using the VA as a backdrop.

Of course, criticism is still muted, and media investigations to date have been lackluster, but there are few kind words. Obama's trained hamsters have grown small teeth. We'll see whether they sharpen them.