What’s That About?

This morning’s Times contains an oped by David Rothkopf with a deep critique of President Obama. The upshot is that Obama is simply a bad manager, coming into the presidency with no executive experience. And many of the key failures of his time in office stem from that single fact.

After you read it, if you’re game, I’m curious to get your feedback. Both from observers from a distance and from those more up close. Broadly, it doesn’t ring true to me. For two basic reasons.First is that I’ve heard versions of this critique about the last five presidents. Possibly the last six — the big exception being the first President Bush. Love me some Bill Clinton, but steady executive management was not his thing. Many other similar points could be made.

It also doesn’t match with what I’ve seen of the process itself.

That’s not that I don’t think Obama’s management or approach to the presidency was flawless. My critique is simply different. I think the biggest single flaw in Obama’s approach to the presidency in his first term was the focus on the inside game, both in policy and legislative terms — an inherent peril of technocrats. For much of his first term, Obama simply did not focus on the public and political dimensions of the work he was trying to get done. To give but one example, the health care edifice was getting built up largely in private while public support for it cratered in the midst of catastrophic levels of unemployment. Yes, it was always going to be hard and there was the biggest economic crisis in 70 years. But there was a failure to grasp a dimension of the job.

Many other problems were just bad decisions at various points along the road.

In any case, we all have our critiques.

But what do you make of this one? Genuinely curious to hear. Is it mere Beltway-ism or is there more to it than I think? I got a distinct feeling of ‘what my sources told me about Valerie’ in the piece. And it left me looking for a backstory tied to the author himself and key players in the government.

Let me know what you think.