Josh Kraushaar has an interesting National Journal column on Obama’s appointments of Susan “it was the YouTube video” Rice and Samantha “let’s invade Israel” Power today. Borrowing from the title of Power’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, I think of these ladies as “a problem from hell,” but that’s unfair. They reflect the boss.
Here is the opening of Kraushaar’s column:
A hallmark of the Obama administration is its imperviousness to conventional Washington wisdom, a brash confidence that their way is the best way — critics be damned. As a resident contrarian, that type of independent thinking can often be refreshing and liberating. But there’s a thin line between confidence and cockiness – and the White House is treading awfully closer [sic] to the latter.
Now I think that Kraushaar is guilty of a failure of nerve here. He intimates that Obama has crossed the line between confidence and cockiness, but asserts only that he’s nudging up to it. Say it, man.
Even more troubling (to me) is the inscrutability of the second sentence of Kraushaar’s opening: “As a resident contrarian, that type of independent thinking can often be refreshing and liberating.” Who is the resident contrarian? The subject of the preceding sentence is the Obama administration. Is Kraushaar referring to himself, or to Obama, or to the Obama administration?
We can guess from the context, but the modifier “as a resident contrarian” is left dangling in the sentence. It doesn’t modify anything.
Kraushaar’s failure of nerve really leads to confusion. Is the Obama administration really impervious to conventional Washington wisdom? If so, the entire administration is full of like-minded contrarians. The concept loses its meaning.
I think Kraushaar wants to say that Obama’s appointments represent an arrogance with which we have all become painfully familiar. Obama could use a contrarian voice! Why not just come out and say it?
UPDATE: Kraushaar has revised his column to indicate that he is the resident contrarian.