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

Friday, February 13, 2015


No leader, whether he or she is the owner of a small business, the CEO of a major corporation, the Governor of a State, or the President of the United States can be expected to know everything about everything. Good leaders, the 8s and 9s of the management world, hire 10s, and as a consequence, the gaps in their knowledge are filled with the advice and counsel of those 10s. Weak leaders, the 3s of the management world (managers exemplified by Dilbert's boss), are insecure about their abilities and their knowledge, so to avoid a perceived threat to their leadership, they hire 2s (dullards and yes men who are perfectly willing to tell the boss how great he/she is). Although I've written this many times over the years, it's well worth repeating.

Barack Obama has created a Team of 2s. Because he has been convinced he's the smartest guy in the room, he has created a support team that tells him that everyday. That wouldn't be a bad thing if it were true (well, actually it would be a bad thing—no one is so smart they they should reject good advice), but the reality of Barack Obama based on six plus years of bad decisions, mendacious conduct, and poor results indicate that he is neither as smart as his supporters claim he is or as good a manager as he thinks he is.

In a scathing assessment of this president's abilities, Seth Mandel writes about a series of serious gaffes (on Putin, on Islamic terrorism (oops, excuse me, on "extremism" without an adjective), on the anti-Semitic ("random") murder of Jews ("folks") in Paris and comes to a set of troubling conclusions :
It is not my intention to run down a list of all Obama’s flubs. Everybody makes mistakes, and any politician whose words are as scrutinized as the president’s is going to have their share of slip-ups. Yes, Obama is a clumsy public speaker; but that’s not the problem, nor is it worth spending much time on.

The problem is that Obama tends to make mistakes that stem from a worldview often at odds with reality. Russia is a good example. Does it matter that Obama doesn’t know the basics of Vladimir Putin’s biography and the transition of post-Soviet state security? Yes, it does, because Obama’s habit of misreading Putin has been at the center of his administration’s failed Russia policy. And it matters with regard not only to Russia but to his broader foreign policy because Obama has a habit of not listening to anyone not named Jarrett ...

Obama has also run into some trouble with history in the Middle East, where history is both exceedingly important and practically weaponized. The legitimacy of the Jewish state is of particular relevance to the conflict. So Obama was criticized widely for undermining that legitimacy in his famous 2009 Cairo speech, puzzling even Israel’s strident leftists. The speech was harder to defend than either his remarks to BuzzFeed or Vox because such speeches are not off the cuff; they are carefully scrutinized by the administration. When Obama could say exactly what he meant to say, in other words, this is what he chose to say.

It wasn’t the only time Obama revealed his ignorance of the Middle East and especially Israeli history, of course. And that ignorance has had consequences. Obama has learned nothing from the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a fact which was reflected quite clearly in his disastrous mishandling of the negotiations and their bloody aftermath ...

And the Vox errors echo throughout the president’s mishandling of the other great security challenge: Islamic terrorism. Such terrorism has contributed a great deal to the undoing of many of the gains in Iraq and the international state system...
It's quite troubling to note that "smartest guy in the room"—isn't. That would be perfectly okay if this president had the humility to hire 9s and then listen to them—he doesn't. In fact, some of the 7s, 8s, and 9s who have served in his administration (e.g., Robert Gates, and Leon Panetta have alluded as much). Even Chuck Hagel (a 2 or 3) quit the SecDef job in frustration.

Mandel's conclusion is no less damning:
In other words, it’s a comprehensive historical ignorance. And on matters of great significance–the major world religions, the Middle East, Russia. And the president’s unwillingness to grasp the past certainly gives reason for concern with Iran as well–a country whose government has used the façade of negotiations to its own anti-American ends for long enough to see the pattern.

They’re not just minor gaffes or verbal blunders. They serve as a window into the mind of a president who acts as if a history of the world before yesterday could fit on a postcard. We talk a lot about the defects of the president’s ideology, but not about his ignorance. The two are related, but the latter is lately the one causing a disproportionate amount of damage.
Harsh, but absolutely accurate. The problem is that Barack Obama still has plenty of time to do more damage. I suspect that he will.