“Est-il faible?”: Why the prospect of another Waco grew this week.
O·ver·com·pen·sate, verb, take excessive measures in attempting to correct or make amends for an error, weakness, or problem: he was overcompensating for fears about the future. — Webster’s Dictionary
“It is not by his will that he will unleash a war, but by his weakness.” — King Edward VII writing about his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II, in 1905.
I thought about Kaiser Bill when I read, one after the other, the two stories below. The first, by long-time Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland, dares to ask the question publicly that has been floating privately behind the scenes in D.C. for some months now. ‘Is He Weak?’
Shortly after the Group of 20 summit concluded in London in April, Nicolas Sarkozy blurted out to a small group of advisers a question that weighed on him as he watched President Obama glad-hand his way through the gathering: “Est-il faible?” (Is he weak?)
The French president did not answer his own blunt query, which faded as the American leader commanded a hectic round of domestic economic intervention and agenda-setting abroad in the weeks that followed. Initial doubts about Obama’s toughness went on the shelf at the Elysee Palace and elsewhere.
But the Sarkozy question was abruptly dusted off as Obama began hitting resistance to some of his most ambitious goals, including health-care reform, Middle East peacemaking and engagement with Iran. Is Obama making tactical retreats to gain better position on these hard cases — or is he, well, weak?
It is an odd question to ask about a man who tenaciously fought his way to the presidency against enormous odds, then dazzled the country and much of the world in his first six months in office.
But it is one inevitably raised by Obama’s conciliatory manner, his appeals to sweet reason and high morality, and his soaring rhetorical promises when he has to adjust means, goals or both. And it will dog his presidency if he does not demonstrate quickly that he is as good at handling adversity as he has been at exploiting initial success.
His fiercest Republican critics will of course hurl charges of weakness to tear him down and gain partisan advantage. Voters will see through that. But the president has to guard against letting even sensible tactical retreats corrode his image as a fighter for change.
The withering criticism that liberal Democrats are directing at Obama over a public insurance option as part of health-care reform shows his vulnerability. Similarly, his economic spokesmen created confusion about his (and their) resolve this month when they seemed to edge toward, and then back away from, tax increases on the middle class.
Was the president of two minds on these matters and using trial balloons? Had he failed to explain himself to his most senior associates? Or were they trying to bounce him into changing course? Whatever, an air of indecision gathered over a White House that prides itself on crisp decision-making.
“Characteristically, Mr. Obama has been trying to have it both ways,” the Financial Times editorialized about the health-care ruckus. “Characteristically” was the dagger in that sentence.
Hoagland was not the only commentator to go public with this story, although Chris Stirewalt, political editor of the Washington Examiner charitably characterizes Obama’s problem as one of incompetence rather than weakness. Stirewalt tells us “Questions of competence begin to dog Obama.” Here is his column, in part:
Many Democrats think that the stars were aligned for health care but increasingly see the administration as having squandered the moment.
Press Secretary Robert Gibbs took a beating Tuesday for an outright evasion on whether Obama has changed his position on the public option. Down the hall, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel snarled to the New York Times that the White House is finally done with bipartisanship … again.
Democrats can’t be blamed for wondering if these guys know what they’re doing.
It doesn’t help with liberals that Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan, sticking with Wall Street on bailouts, and going slow on social issues. But Democrats are really alarmed because they have lost faith in the political powers of the president and his team.
Competency trumps ideology almost every time.
Americans would rather have a competent president with whom they disagree on some points than a president who shares all their views but can’t get the job done.
For George W. Bush, the tipping point of his presidency was August 30, 2005, when the sun rose on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Fair or not, the perception that Bush was not up to the task in New Orleans fractured public confidence in his administration.
When the brushfire of sectarian conflict in Iraq burned out of control in early 2006, there was little the president could say to reassure Americans. Having taken the rap for letting 1,800 citizens die in a storm, Bush couldn’t regain control of the national narrative in Iraq.
As Democrats like Obama hounded and hectored him, voters came to conclude that the president and his party weren’t up to the job of running the country.
With tremendous discipline and a top-notch team, Bush was eventually able to regroup and build enough support for the troop surge that pulled Iraq back from the brink in 2008. But big deficits, a Wall Street bailout, and the memories of Iraq and Katrina saw Bush leave office with only about a third of Americans in his corner.
About half of the country still approves of the job Obama is doing. But as voters lose confidence in Obama’s gifts, victories will be harder to come by.
The simple answer for breaking the cycle would be to listen to moderate Democrats who say that starting over would be better than a humiliating defeat, or worse, passing a screwed-up bill.
But Obama set the stakes for the game when he allowed Emanuel to convince Democrats and the press this spring that failing to pass a bill immediately would be electoral death next year.
Once the August deadline was blown and the president started dropping in the polls, Obama had no choice but to keep plunging ahead. Plus, his personality makes it unlikely that he’ll admit a mistake of this magnitude.
The way Obama brushed off the challenges of both Hillary Clinton and John McCain last year made Democrats believe he had infallible political instincts and was a forceful leader.
But what if Obama was lucky in the adversaries he drew and in the timing of the economic collapse? What if Democrats confused serendipity and ego for keen judgment and executive ability?
Those questions are the reason for the panic you see on the faces of congressional Democrats.
“Weak.” “Incompetent.” And most tellingly, “his personality makes it unlikely that he’ll admit a mistake of this magnitude.”
Yes, Kaiser Wilhelm had that problem too. You know, it’s funny how the brain works, how sometimes you’ll see a word or phrase and it niggles some memory you didn’t even know you had. I read that headline, “Questions of competence begin to dog Obama,” and something keyed me onto the word “dog.” I don’t know why. But when I gave into the whim and did a search on “dog” and “fear,” this popped up.
Fear aggression is not a simple behavior that can be easily diagnosed and treated. It is an entire spectrum of behaviors, ranging from a simple snap on a single occasion to Cujo, a foaming at the mouth maniac. What produces fear aggression is a mixture of things – socialization, temperament, abuse, genetics, training, or just rotten luck. Like all behaviors, this is not a nature vs. nurture issue – it’s a nature AND nurture issue. What is inevitably true however is that untreated, fear aggression only gets worse.
Fear aggression is exactly as it sounds – aggression produced as a result of fear. Not all scared dogs will get aggressive and not all dogs will get scared in similar circumstances. Knowing this gives us an insight into how to approach the problem behavior. One way is to ensure the dog won’t get scared, no matter the circumstance. The other is to prevent the dog from becoming aggressive if it does get scared. Most people address the former but not the latter. — Border Collie Rescue.
Then I remembered that, gosh, maybe ten years ago, I was doing research on survival dogs and ran across this problem with border collies. Like I said, funny how the brain works.
But here’s the thing: this growing perception of Obama and his men as weak, indecisive and fearful is going to have an effect on their decision-making processes. The one thing they cannot afford is to look weak, indecisve and fearful. This has consequences for both them and the country, although I’ll wager they care a damn sight more about their political fortunes than they do the country.
Internationally, this can only encourage our enemies and any tin-pot tyrant who is looking enviously at his neighbor. Think Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs vacillations leading to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Domestically, it dismays Obama’s allies at a time when he must have them in his corner to ram health care, amnesty and all of the host of his “Raw Deal” programs down our throats.
What to do? Rahm Emanuel must be asking himself. What to do? Well, the man who famously said that a good crisis should never go to waste, is not above creating a little, bitty crisis in order to regain the perception that they are NOT weak, incompetent and fearful.
And if they cannot find something internationally, then it will be found domestically. And now we’re back to Kaiser Wilhelm, the guy who started a war because he didn’t want to be perceived as weak.
The prospects for another Waco grew this week, with the publication of these columns, for as the Obananoids grow increasingly desperate to accomplish their aims, they are going to want to change the narrative more to their liking. Deadly miscalculations can result.
Amybody remember that the original motivation of the ATF for the Waco raid was to shift the focus of public scrutiny from the agency’s bad publicity on discrimination suits, et. al.? Weak, incompetent and fearful people make bone-headed choices that get other people killed. Sometimes, spectacularly, a lot of people.
And this could have horrible consequences. For, as I have explained here many times, and to the Attorney General of the United States once, there will be no more free Wacos.