American Elephants


Figuring Out Barack Obama. Take 137 A. by The Elephant's Child

I think I’ve got Obama figured out. Yes, yes, I know — join the crowd. The line is right over there. Just get in the back.

Obama has a  bad case of BBUL, not to be confused with a bubble, like the bubble occupied by most inhabitants of the White House. No, this stands for “Bright But Unusually Lazy”— BBUL. Valerie Jarrett gave us a clue:

I think Barack knew that he had God-given talents that were extraordinary. He knows exactly how smart he is. … He knows how perceptive he is. He knows what a good reader of people he is. And he knows that he has the ability — the extraordinary, uncanny ability — to take a thousand different perspectives, digest them and make sense out of them, and I think that he has never really been challenged intellectually. … So, what I sensed in him was not just a restless spirit but somebody with such extraordinary talents that had to be really taxed in order for him to be happy. … He’s been bored to death his whole life. He’s just too talented to do what ordinary people do.

Well, Law professor Richard Epstein disagreed. He said famously that Barack Obama “imitates an intellectual.”He got some flack for that statement, but he did not back down.

No, I have known several people like this. Given a book, or an assignment, they will read the introduction or the first few paragraphs and feel that they understand what the article or book contains. They know the rest of it and feel no need to continue, because they really get bored by reading. And they managed to get through college with snips and snatches of the material and filling in with a glance at the summary. Grade inflation in the Ivy League helped. They never studied any matter in depth, never re-read, and never discussed and compared the material with someone else. They already knew enough. And they never read further in the subject in books written by someone with a different take.

It’s the difference between passing a quiz and mastering a subject.

Ever notice in reports of meetings with Obama and how he sits back and absorbs what everyone has to say, then rounds up the important points and, changing them slightly, claims them as his own?

Or take the number of “Czars” in the White House. Granted, an artificial name for officials appointed by the president without Senate confirmation. Wikipedia claims 44 appointees for Obama, 11 for Bill Clinton, 33 for George W. Bush but the numbers aren’t really important. We know there are a lot. And they seem to be appointed to be experts in subjects or policies that Obama doesn’t know much about. He has, reportedly, asked that they present him with a very short summary on a policy and 3 choices. From those he will pick one as his policy.

It is reported that he doesn’t like meetings, and does not attend them. That he seldom attends his national security briefings. That he talks only to his closest advisors, mostly Valerie Jarrett.

So that’s where we are. The September 7 Wall Street Journal/NBC poll reports that 67% of the people believe the country is on the wrong track, more than at this point in any midterm election is two decades. Daniel Henninger in tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal:

In a 2008 New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza, Mr. Obama is quoted telling another aide: “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors.” Also, “I think I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters.”

In the days before Mr. Obama’s ISIS address to the nation, news accounts cataloged his now-embarrassing statements about terrorism’s decline on his watch—the terrorists are JV teams, the tide of war is receding and all that….

Some of these gaffes came in offhand comments, but others were embedded in formal speeches from the presidential pen, such as the definitive Obama statement on terrorism last May at the National Defense University: “So that’s the current threat—lethal yet less-capable al Qaeda affiliates.” A year later, ISIS seized one-third of Iraq inside a week.

I don’t know. I’m worried about what might happen tomorrow. I found myself wishing something horrible would happen to wake up this president, and then was horrified at the wish. It would make no difference to Obama. Major Hassan massacred his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood, and the administration has never been able to acknowledge anything beyond “workplace violence.” The Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston Marathon. The shooting at the Navy Yard  in D.C. left 13 dead. All on Obama’s watch. And he still has trouble with the terrorism word.

A reluctant president goes to war. Will he be there when the going gets rough? Somebody in the White House said a day or so ago that they would leave this war for the next administration.



No Magic Wand, No Silver Bullet—Just Make Something Up. by The Elephant's Child

President Obama delivered his third public energy speech at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland this week. This apparently gets categorized as informing the public on his energy policy, rather than as the campaign speech it obviously was. The White House has moved into full reelection mode.

We passed the payroll tax at the beginning of this year to make sure that everybody had an extra $40 in their paychecks on average— in part because we anticipated that gas prices might be going up like they did last year, given tight world oil supplies.

Um, you didn’t say anything about the cost of gas at the time. But we’ve heard the “no silver bullet,” “no magic wand” and “no quick fix”before. “First of all we are drilling. Under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. Any time. That’s a fact. That’s a fact. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. I want everybody to listen to that —we have more rigs operating now than ever. That’s a fact. We’ve approved dozens of new pipelines to move oil across the country. We announce our support for a new one in Oklahoma that will help get more oil down to refineries on the Gulf Coast.”

This is so shameless. America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years because of permits granted by the Bush administration, and oil is being produced on private and state lands over which Obama has no control.

Here’s a statistic I want everybody to remember next time you’re talking to somebody who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Since I took office, America’s dependence on foreign oil has gone down every single year  In 2010, our oil dependence, the amount that we’re bringing in, the percentage we’re bringing in, was under 50 percent for the first time in 13 years.  We’ve got to do better than that, and we can do better than that.

But in order to do better than that, we’ve got to tell the folks who are stuck in the past that our future depends on this all-of-the-above energy strategy.  That’s our job.  That it can’t just be — it can’t just be drilling for more oil.  We’re drilling for more oil, but that can’t be all the solution; that’s just part of the solution.

[T]hey’ve been talking down new sources of energy.  They dismiss wind power.  They dismiss solar power.  They make jokes about biofuels.  They were against raising fuel standards. I guess they like gas-guzzlers.  They think that’s good for our future.  We’re trying to move towards the future; they want to be stuck in the past.

We’ve heard this kind of thinking before.  Let me tell you something.  If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail — they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society.  They would not have believed that the world was round.

Obama’s “all-of-the-above energy strategy” is not exactly all-of-the-above. Gasoline consumption has not dropped because of Obama’s clean energy initiatives, but because the economy is in the tank and some 15 million people are unemployed. Wind and solar, beloved by the administration, do nothing for our gas tanks. And they don’t do much for the electric grid either. Both require 100% backup from a conventional power source, usually a coal-fired power plant, for coal supplies nearly half of our electricity. Obama’s EPA is vigorously shutting down coal plants, threatening blackouts and brownouts.

Obama thinks of wind and solar energy as something new, but they are old, old technologies that have been in use for centuries, never efficiently. Wind is simply too intermittent, and with a coal plant cycling on and off constantly, there is really no net energy produced. The story for solar energy is similar. Solar energy is too diffuse, interrupted by clouds, shade and night.

The 115 year-old Roberts electric car, built in 1896, gets 40 miles to the charge, just like the Volt. Corn ethanol is being added to gasoline, but it is more polluting and contains less energy than gasoline, and raises food prices as well. Biodiesel is being mandated, but there isn’t any, and algae’s usefulness is a long way from being proved.

CAFE standards have been raised dramatically, but whether they can be produced is another question. The increases demanded are far beyond the industry’s previous engineering abilities, which were achieved by making everything in a car lighter.  There’s more to that than waving one’s hand and ordering a number met, but Obama is very big on mandates.

The president is in an uncomfortable place. Things have not gone well, the economy has not significantly improved, his ‘clean energy’ expenditures have been a scandal and a waste, Americans want ObamaCare repealed.  No accomplishments unless he makes them up, which is just what he is doing.

(click to enlarge)

You will notice that the increase in U.S. oil production all occurs in “tight oil”, or shale deposits. The sector totally out of Obama’s control.



Trying To Understand the Puzzle of Obama by The Elephant's Child

One of the most puzzling — or at least most interesting things — about this president is the divergence of opinion about just who he is.  We have those who see him as god-like on the one hand and on the other, those who think he is deliberately trying to destroy the country.

What brought this on today is an article from Esquire, “How Can We Not Love Obama?by Stephen Marche.  At first, I thought it was a parody, but apparently it is just an advanced man-crush.  Those on the left see Obama as center left, which — since they see themselves as in the center and normal — and the rest of us as extremists, is understandable, if laughable.  On the right, people are worried about policy.

Walter Russell Mead, who is a liberal, is careful in his analysis:

Who can forget all those predictions of a ‘transformational presidency,’ hailing the one term Senator from Illinois as a new Lincoln, a new FDR, and (my personal favorite) the ‘Democratic Reagan’?Some of this was a natural pride that virtually the entire country felt at the election of our first African-American President.  Slaves helped build the Capitol building; to see a black man take the oath of office on those steps was a great historic moment — a visible sign of healing and grace. America’s first black President means something regardless of politics and party to everyone in this country and even to everyone in the world.  There was bound to be a contrast between the transcendence that the President represents and the cruel reality of ordinary politics into which he immediately and necessarily plunged.

But some of the enthusiasm was less solidly based.  Who can forget the lavish praise of the new President’s mesmerizing rhetoric?  Serious political writers seriously compared the President’s campaign addresses to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural. …

A significant chunk of the American liberal intelligentsia completely lost its head over Barack Obama.  They mistook hopes and fantasies for reality.  Worse, the disease spread to at least some members of the White House team.  An administration elected with a mandate to stabilize the country misread the political situation and came to the belief that the country wanted the kinds of serious and deep changes that liberals have wanted for decades.  It was 1933, and President Obama was the new FDR.

Peter Berkowitz, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, in an essay titled “Pragmatism, Obama Style:”

To be sure, nobody familiar with Obama’s career as a community organizer, eight years in the Illinois state senate, best-selling books, brief record in the U.S. Senate, presidential campaign speeches, behind-closed-doors crack to wealthy San Francisco donors about working-class voters who bitterly cling to their guns and religion, and unguarded remark a few weeks before the election to Joe the Plumber about his intention to “spread the wealth around” could reasonably doubt Obama’s progressive bona fides.

How to understand his postpartisan and pragmatic credentials is another matter. Little more than three months into his presidency, Obama’s claim to transcend partisan divisions stands revealed as an effort to disguise the size and scope of his progressive ambitions.

The problem is not partisanship but a deceptive form of pragmatism in which pretending to be nonpartisan is a pragmatic strategy for imposing far-reaching progressive policies on an unwary public. This pragmatism is unpragmatic because it suppresses inconvenient consequences and disrespectful of citizens because it obscures its governing principles and ultimate intentions.

Dan Henninger, deputy editor of the editorial page, wrote after the State of the Union Speech:

Barack Obama believes what he believes.  The ideas he came in with are the ideas he will go out with, and nowhere in that speech was there a fully formed policy idea reflecting authentic belief in the private economy.

Once past the Reagan moment, the Obama policy menu had three entrees: clean energy, education and infrastructure. This was lifted, almost verbatim, from the Obama budget message two months into his presidency: “Our budget will make long overdue investments in priorities—like clean energy, education, health care, and new infrastructure.” He extolled “new jobs that pay well” such as “installing solar energy panels and wind turbines.”

This isn’t a vision. It’s an obsession.

There are, of course, those like Chris Matthews who gets a tingle up his leg, and those who are sure that Obama is deliberately trying to bring down the country, and that’s not really helpful. Democrats were deeply divided towards the end of the Clinton administration, and during the Bush administration united in their seething, unreasoning hatred for Bush, which resulted in an outpouring of venom such as I have never seen.  Republicans hate Obama’s policies, not the man.

These articles all attempt to understand the man and his policies.  His policies are bringing us to a crisis point as he stormed out of a meeting that he arranged in the White House.  The spending by the federal government has become an international crisis, and it simply cannot go on.  We are on an unsustainable path, and the president simply doesn’t want to stop spending.

Here are some more serious contributions that offer insight:

A Man for All Factions” by Ross Douthat
“The Chosen One”
by Angelo M. Codevilla
Why are Students So Hateful?” by Ed Driscoll
American Narcissus” by Johnathan V. Last
America’s Ruling Class—And the Perils of Revolution” by Angelo M. Codevilla
“The Chosen One” by Angelo M. Codevilla
“Obama, Lost in Thought” by Dana Milbank




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