Peggy Noonan's tone can go from dreamy to wistful to melancholy, but she doesn't often write anything as scathing as this column in tomorrow's WSJ. The first clue is the title, He Was Supposed to Be Competent. And the lead paragraph isn't any kinder:
I don't see how the president's position and popularity can survive the oil spill. This is his third political disaster in his first 18 months in office. And they were all, as they say, unforced errors, meaning they were shaped by the president's political judgment and instincts.
What follows is a litany of the President's failures and character flaws that is quite impressive for someone just 16 months into his term. But the money shot is this, specifically referring to his oil spill handling but also more generally applicable:
When your most creative thoughts in the middle of a disaster revolve around protecting your position, you are summoning trouble.Beyond the failure of Obama the man is the failure of Obama the ideology:
[Hurricane Katrina] illustrate[d] that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. Conservatives got this point—they know it without being told—but liberals and progressives did not. They thought Katrina was the result only of George W. Bush's incompetence and conservatives' failure to "believe in government." But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent.Exactly. If Greenspan/Bernanke ("there is no bubble"), Fannie/Freddie ("no risk"), Madoff, the stimulus bill to keep unemployment under 8%, etc., haven't illustrated the incompetence and corruption of big government, let this be another piece of evidence. How much more do you need before your answer to every problem stops being "more government"? Do you really want these people making your medical decisions?
As for the political fallout, I'm not as convinced as Noonan that this is a major turning point in the Presidency. You still have a quarter or a third of the population who are hard-core Obama believers, and about 2/3 of mainstream journalists would fit that description. They'll give him a little tongue-lashing over this and then get back to fawning over him and bashing the opposition.
Beers with Demo, The Liberator Today, and The Scratching Post have excellent comments on the same subject today.