I found yesterday’s discussion between the host and Andrew McCarthy riveting. (subscription required) They were trying to figure out just what went wrong in the Justice Department at the end of the Obama administration with all the obvious politicking, etc. I think it is pretty simple really and the best way to understand it is by analogy.
Imagine a teacher administering a test covering material unassigned and untaught. There are a couple of legitimate reasons a teacher might do that. They might do it just to get baseline about what the students know already in a given area. But more interesting to me is that they might do so to test the character of their students. Seriously, what are the students going to do when confronted with that situation? I think there would be a variety of results. The best students would answer, “I don’t know, but if you give me some time, I’ll find out.” But some are going to be so afraid of failure that they will flat out cheat. And everything in between will also be seen. It is in these responses that you can learn a lot about the character of your students. Further you will probably learn things about their character that you would not learn under less stressful circumstances.
Of course it is also possible that a teacher might administer such a test because they are simply inept at their jobs. But even if that is the case, the situation is going to tell you a lot about the character of the students in the class. I think this sums up the Obama administration.
Any organization focuses on what the person at top focuses on. This is natural for an organization, but amplified in government where appointees are going to reflect the guy at top as closely as possible. This is both by design, but also quite natural as one tends to get along better with those with similar concerns. Obama was clearly good at politics, he got elected, but he only seemed to focus on matters of politics and identity, he sort of took it for granted that the government would just keep cranking along on other things.
This narrow focus creates the same sort of void as the untaught test material does and the effect is amplified by the tendency of any organization to reflect the priorities of its head. The void left many people at justice to their own character while the organizational pressures pushed them to concentrate on matters of politics and identity. That kind of stress and pressure is going to reveal character flaws where none had previously been seen. Comey and Strzok, et. al. are not evil people. They are simply people that look very good under normal circumstances but when presented with extraordinary pressures failed.
That’s not an excuse, just an explanation. The bottom line is that the Obama administration was unlike anything in American history and it was a time that tried men’s, and women’s, souls. Obama’s supporters know this and that is part of the impetus to paint the Trump administration with the same brush. But while the Trump administration appears far more unusual that the Obama administration did, on substance it is far more normal. Mr Obama was an inept chief executive; Mr. Trump is a most unusual, but capable one.