George Will occasionally recalls the story of how the Baltimore Orioles’ legendary manager Earl Weaver used to storm out of the dugout after a bad call from a umpire, get nose-to-nose with the ump and say, “Are you going to get any better, or is this it?” Needless to say, Weaver got tossed from a lot of games. (Why doesn’t that happen as often any more? Maybe long-time readers of our sports desk will weigh in with some observations.)
Weaver’s Razor, as I call it, comes to mind in connection with Obama. Of course, I didn’t have much hope for this guy from the start, but our frequent comparisons of Obama and Jimmy Carter turn out to be grossly unfair—to Jimmy Carter. Even Carter finally started to get it and change course late in his pathetic administration. After blaming inflation on our personal moral failings and other absurd causes in his first two years in office, he finally got religion in 1979 and appointed Paul Volcker to the Fed with instructions to impose more discipline on monetary policy. Despite his relentless silliness on energy, Carter finally realized that energy production and distribution should be de-regulated. He was too slow and controlling about this, but at least the policy arrow was pointed in the right direction, such that Reagan could sweep away the last stupid price controls on oil and natural gas starting his first day in office. And Carter finally got out of the way of cutting the capital gains tax, which had reached punitive and counterproductive levels in the inflationary circumstances of the 1970s.
Obama seems utterly immune to the lessons of reality on the economy. I had thought that for all of his Harvard Law/community organizing/Alinskyite sympathies, he would pay some heed to his economic team, which was surprisingly sensible for such a radical as Obama. I recall talking with George Will on this point right after the election in 2008, about how Jason Furman, Christina Romer, and Larry Summers were, though liberal, not insane, and likely to be a relative voice of reason in the White House. Some of Romer’s work could be embraced easily by a Republican administration, and not only was Summers the best president of Harvard in the last 60 years (okay, a low bar, but that’s why he had to be fired of course), he is widely thought to be the person who dissuaded Bill Clinton from embracing the Kyoto Protocol back in 1998 because of its exorbitant costs. And even Cass Sunstein, whose constitutional views are truly radical, has some common sense about economics and regulations. (In fact, I strongly suspect Sunstein is behind the White House decision to yank the EPA’s ozone rules last month—about the only bright spot in Obama’s regulatory policy recently. Remember that many environmental groups were not enthusiastic about his appointment to OMB because Sunstein has said nice things about cost-benefit analysis.)
But as we now know from the Ron Suskind book, Obama doesn’t listen much to his economic team. And it clearly shows. Any sensible president concerned about jobs would have ordered the approval of the Keystone pipeline months ago, among other things. Even Jimmy Carter would be looking around for ways to set loose jobs—any jobs—in the private economy right now; how about giving some drilling leases in eastern Montana, for example, which is missing out on the oil boom taking place on private land in next-door North Dakota? Instead, this week we got Obama’s version of Carter’s “malaise” speech, calling us “soft.” That’s rich coming from someone whose life experience as a coddled law student, part-time professor and community organizer is the epitome of “soft.” I think it is doubtful whether Obama has ever had a callus on his hands. Or ever changed the oil filter on an automobile. Or bussed a table in college to make ends meet.
Enough rant. I think we know the answer to Weaver’s Razor: This is it. He’s never going to get any better.