We in America have been pretty lucky for quite a long time. Despite the fact that our method of electing presidents hardly guarantees greatness or even competence, we’ve mostly had presidents who displayed at least the latter, competence. And we’ve even be blessed with quite a few who might merit the former: greatness.

So perhaps this got too many of us to thinking that the presidency isn’t such a difficult job after all, and doesn’t even necessarily require a lot of skills that any relatively savvy person would lack.

The unrelenting Bush-bashing was evidence of that, in a sort of twisted way. After all, if under this absolute idiot (village idiot, if I recall correctly), the country still survived, then how hard could it all be?

So for the majority of people, voting for Barack Obama for president seemed like a nifty idea in 2008. He appeared to them to be smart, personable, gave an inspiring speech, wanted to bring us together, wanted to treat other countries right, all that good stuff. So what if he lacked managerial, governing, really almost all national or even local leadership experience except oratory? In the immortal words of Hillary Clinton (although most definitely not on the same subject), what difference did it make?

Put aside for a moment your antipathy to Obama’s leftism or lies or mannerisms or whatever part or parts of his politics and persona you hate. Put aside even the fact that that Obama probably wants to weaken the US on the world stage. I’m just talking about basic skills here: negotiation, managing, communicating, knowledge of the nature of other countries.

Western Europe has gotten used to American competence, too, and started out in 2008 by thinking not only that Obama’s inexperience didn’t matter but that he would be a superior president because of his attitude, with which they could identify and which seemed more like theirs. The Soviets and Chinese probably were more aware of the significance of his lack of skills, but for them his inexperience would be a good thing. And the Arab world was probably dancing with glee, after Bush.

Well, here we are. Even most of Obama’s supporters are either angry at him or somewhat embarrassed for him by now, which can’t possibly be what he intended. Oh, they’ll continue to cover up for him, but they are not pleased.

We’ve had other inexperienced and even somewhat incompetent presidents, especially in certain areas (for example, governors virtually never have prior international experience). But we’ve been fortunate in that for the most part they’ve tended to be aware of their own inexperience, and tried to appoint people to positions in foreign policy who are the opposite from them in having both knowledge and experience. Obama has very different criteria for his appointees; he prefers the inexperienced and/or easily controlled.

For all you American history buffs out there: has any other president whose only previous national experience was a single term as senator (one he essentially left in order to campaign) appointed as his Secretary of State another senator with foreign experience only marginally greater than his own (Hillary Clinton)? I certainly can’t think of one.

You may argue that this essay is predicated on the idea that Obama would do better if he could, and that he has the US’s best interests at heart. But as I said before, I think he does not—but that doesn’t really change the points I’m trying to make, which are that (a) Obama has a very high opinion of his own foreign policy and other presidential skills despite his utter lack of experience (he made that crystal clear during the 2008 campaign; see this); (b) he doesn’t want the world to see him as incompetent; (c) he prefers equally incompetent advisors; and (d) lulled into a false sense of security, American voters failed to see his lack of experience coupled with his hubris as a huge red flag, although they should have done so.

It’s (d) that worries me the most, because even if we survive Obama’s two-term presidency it does not bode well for the future, and says nothing good about the judgment of the American people. I began this essay by saying Americans have mostly been lucky in their previous presidents. But maybe it was a luck informed by a certain amount of common sense and even knowledge. I don’t think that someone with Obama’s background would have been elected just a decade or two ago, and certainly not before. And by the word “background” I am not talking about his race, I’m referring to all the facts about Obama that were in the public domain before November of 2008 (and most definitely by November of 2012): his lack of managerial experience and foreign policy knowledge, his tremendous arrogance and narcissism, and his leftist ties and previous leftist statements.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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