There are a number of recent developments that are gratifying for conservatives and Republicans. One small thing that gratifies me is the emergence of former Bush administration officials and staffers as powerful spokespersons in the fight against Obama’s left-liberal policies.
Two obvious examples are Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove. The latter appears regularly on television to pick apart the policies and practices of President Obama and the Democratic (or “Democrat” as Rove always says) Congress.
But I’m thinking mostly about younger, far less well-known ex-staffers who operate mostly through the written word — folks like Peter Wehner, Yuval Levin, and now Marc Thiessen, who yesterday simultaneously took down Christiane Amanpour and the slimy Phillippe Sands. They aren’t just joining the battle, they are leading the charge.
This shouldn’t be surprising. Of course, the Bush administration would have attracted many of the best younger minds on our side of the debate. But the constant drumbeat of negativity about the administration, to which conservatives and Republicans contributed (justifiably at times), made me wonder whether (a) these minds would have the will to jump directly back into the fight and (b) whether they would be welcomed back.
I need not have worried.
There’s a related point I also want to make: running an administration isn’t as easy as it looks. The point should be too obvious to require stating; yet commentators on both sides have a double interest in ignoring this reality. First, they want to make political hay out of the other side’s errors; second they want to come across as superior to the people in charge.
These interests provided the subtext for much of the criticism of the Bush administration. There certainly were instances of incompetence during its tenure, but by far the more arguably valid line on Bush was that he bit off more than he could chew, or bit off the wrong things, not that he and his staff couldn’t chew well. Yet, the more probative lines of criticism often took a back seat to attempts to demonstrate that, with the exception of a few evil geniuses, the administration was populated by idiots, most notably the president himself.
Obama, by contrast, was going to be a noble genius, and his administration would be staffed by the brightest and the best, as evidenced by the schools they attended. But after a year, the operation looks decidedly amateurish.
In part, this is because Obama is, in a sense, an amateur — he has virtually no executive experience. And, because he is so arrogant, he lacks (at least to my knowledge) an experienced hand with substantial executive experience to whom he regularly turns for guidance. Compare this to Bush, who had six years of experience running a huge state, yet still regularly availed himself of Cheney’s advice during the first term.
But in my opinion, the main reason why Obama and his crew don’t seem more competent is that being president isn’t as easy as it looks, especially when you have (a) inherited a terrible economy and two wars and (b) decided you want to accomplish grandiose things very quickly. Most of Obama’s staffers won’t seem nearly as hapless when they are engaging in punditry after their time in power has ended.
Meanwhile, one of the virtues of many (though not all) of the ex-Bushies who have turned to punditry is their appreciation, and willingness to acknowledge, just how difficult things can be at 16th and 17th Streets and Pennsylvania Avenue.
SCOTT adds: A reader reminds us of the contribution of former Bush administration deputy assistant attorney general John Yoo, which I briefly wrote about here.
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