Even Democrats are beginning to yell “incompetence!” And it’s a nightly refrain on FOX News. Certainly we are seeing signs of incompetence in the deplorable VA scandal. And the rollout of ObamaCare was a world-class case of “glitch.” Inquiring minds are still asking what became of a half billion dollar investment in Solyndra. That “green energy” company went belly up. The fact that many of its organizers were Obama contributors should not attract any congressional oversight, of course. Nothing to see here, folks, just move on (dot org).
The other administration woes—from Fast & Furious to Benghazi are even more troubling. A proper investigation may tell us whether or not vets died awaiting care at VA hospitals. But we already know that Americans died because of administration missteps in Mexico and Libya.
So, for those inclined to yell INCOMPETENCE, there is plenty to yell about. Still, it might be wise to pause and reflect: Is competence really the winning issue that some pundits think it is?
The 2012 campaign for president was run largely on the basis of executive competence. Candidate Mitt Romney was famous for his start-up of Bain Capital, for rescuing the 2002 Winter Olympics, and for running a taut ship as Governor of Massachusetts. He may have stumbled with Joe Sixpack when he said he “liked to fire people” who don’t perform, but there was an aura of quiet competence circling all the bright young folks who rallied to Mitt’s campaign apparat.
Most impressive, perhaps, was their high-tech plan for voter turnout. After all, voter turnout is everything in politics. Long before Abraham Lincoln stepped on the debate platform with Democrat Stephen Douglas, Lincoln the Whig politico was giving campaign workers lessons in turning out the vote for his party in Illinois.
Team Romney promised a state-of-the-art computer-driven voter turnout effort that would be far more advanced than anything seen before. They called their plan Project ORCA. It was a humorous dig at the Obama turnout effort. The president’s team called their computer program Narwhal.
On Election Day, November 6, 2012, ORCA beached itself early in the day. The much-vaunted computer program crashed. Fearing leaks, the Romney team failed to test ORCA before the critical day. It was perhaps the most spectacular failure in the history of presidential politics.
By contrast, Mr. Obama’s Narwhal swam smoothly through calm seas to a thumping victory. A businessman friend of mine, who is highly tech savvy, related to us the story of his lawyer daughter. She voted in Northern Virginia at 1 pm. At 1:40 pm, she got a text message from the Obama campaign listing all her friends on FaceBook who had not yet voted. The Obama team asked our young advocate, politely, to text her friends and encourage them to vote.
This is a cautionary tale. Critics can go on and on about this administration’s incompetence. We should be aware, however, that the left will use these charges as examples of the unfairness of President Obama’s critics. They have never been willing to give our first black president a fair shake, Mr. Obama’s supporters are saying.
Barack Obama has been supremely competent in the one great thing that matters to liberals: Getting and keeping power. Don’t forget, it is in ruling over us that liberals live and breathe and have their being.
Let’s also remember that “competence” was the great watchword of that other technocratic Massachusetts governor, the smooth and efficient Michael Dukakis. In 1988, he promised “competence not ideology.”
Vice President George Bush countered that competence will get the trains there on time, to be sure, but it doesn’t let you know where the trains are going. Bush ran a tough campaign based on values and principles, a campaign that accentuated the differences in governing philosophy. He blasted Dukakis as a “liberal.” He carried forty states. (That was the last campaign where a candidate openly claimed to be liberal. Now, they are all “progressives.”)
Conservatives need to tell Americans where they want to take the train. They should be strong in saying that ObamaCare must be repealed. They should not shy away from social issues, but should learn how to communicate the pro-life and pro-marriage positions more effectively.
My friend Gary Bauer has wisely pointed out that the NBCNews/Wall Street Journal polls on people and the economy show that none of the Republicans’ economic issues can command a majority. The best of the GOP’s planks garners less than 40% of the electorate.
I agree with most of those conservative economic positions. But too voters don’t. Twelve years of miseducation and sixty years of media misinformation have taken their toll. By dumping social issues and stressing only economic issues, the Republicans can assuredly carry 37% of the vote—which is what President George H.W. Bush got in 1992 against that New Democrat, Bill Clinton.
Barring misfortune, President Obama will be in office until January 20, 2017. He is daily increasing his powers. He had already issued forty-one substantive changes to ObamaCare. These changes were not approved by Congress. Nor were they adjudicated by the Supreme Court. Nonetheless, he holds the power and he issues his diktats. And the great bureaucratic machine rolls on over us all. In wielding that vast power, in daily seizing even more power, Mr. Obama’s competence is unequaled.
Ken Blackwell is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council and the American Civil Rights Union, and on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
Photo credit: Stephen_Medlock (Creative Commons)