Ed Klein’s “The Amateur” – Chapter 6


Excerpts never do a book justice. but here goes Chapter 6.

Chapter 6

Drinking the Kool-Aid

Obama, in 2009, invited 9 famous historians (all named in the book) for dinner. He wanted to ask them how he could become a transformational President. He wanted to bring the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table, open a dialogue with Iran and North Korea, revolutionize healthcare and energy policy and inject more regulations into the American economy to create “a more just and equitable society.”

When one guest brought up Johnson’s difficulties trying to wage a foreign war and implement an ambitious domestic agenda, Obama grew testy and exposed his grand over confidence. This from a man with 7 undistinguished years in the Illinois state senate and 2 mostly absent years in the U.S. senate had a grand plan to match his grand ego.

Obama complained to foreign leaders of having to waste time with “congressmen from Palookaville.” He let his Cabinet and security team know he was the smartest person in the room, creating a yes man mentality.

He didn’t seek advice from outside experts and never called the people who got him to the pinnacle of power – the Kennedys, Oprah Winfrey, wealthy Jewish donors or the African-Americans who helped him from Day One.

He appointed aides and czars who knew as little as him on public policy issues.

He was glorified by his staff. David Axelrod called him “black Jesus.”

Rahm Emanuel was less enthusiastic. He said, “I whipped ass up and down, front room and back room, and I got sick and tired of the White House. I got sick of fighting and losing in the White House, and I was eager to leave.”

People around Obama encouraged his messianic ramblings. Oprah Winfrey referred to him as “The One.” [Hyperbole] The NY Times said his election was a catharsis.[They were serious]

Going back to the historians, he told them that he preferred a corporatist political system in which the economy would be collectively managed by big employers, big unions, and government officials through a formal mechanism at the nation level. Also known as state capitalism, it is a system in which the government picks winners and promotes economic growth. That was a favorite approach for Mussolini and his Fascists.

It’s not a new idea. In fact, Dukakis and Hart said America should replace the free market with a “neo-corporatist state.”

One of the pro-Obama historians from the meeting said, “There’s no doubt that Obama has turned out to be a major enigma and disappointment. He waged such a brilliant campaign, first against Hillary Clinton in the primaries, then against John McCain  in the general election.

For a long time, I found it hard to understand why he couldn’t translate his political savvy into effective governance. But I think I know the answer now. Since the beginning of his administration, Obama hasn’t been able to capture the public’s imagination and inspire people to follow him.

Vision isn’t enough in a president. Great presidents not only have to enunciate their vision; they must lead by example and inspiration. Franklin Roosevelt spoke to the individual. He and Ronald Reagan had the ability to make each American feel that the president cared deeply and personally about them.

People don’t feel that he’s on their side. The irony is that he was supposed to be such a brilliant orator, but in fact he’s turned out to be a failure as a communicator. And his failure to connect with people has had nothing to do with choice of his words or how well he delivers his speeches. It’s something much more fundamental than that.

Obama is in over his head and the people are starting to realize it.

Obama, The One –