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The Lost President and the Found Governor: The Obama-Christie Divide

Friday, October 1, 2010  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

In the long-ago days before GPS, when people got lost in strange surroundings, they’d head for a gas station. No gas station? “Head back to the main road.”

What you didn’t do was press on into even smaller streets or even more remote areas.

Before you could take any corrective action, though, you first had to come to the –often-embarrassing– recognition that you were indeed lost. Then you could start looking for the main road.

President Obama is very lost, and Velma Hart knew it, and everyone at Wednesday’s “backyard townhall” in Iowa knew it as well. I played the president’s response to a couple of the questions from his supporters there, and the answers were painful to listen to –rambling, incoherent exercises in chewing up time.

In the course of an hour, the president took five questions, one from the mother of a college grad who supported Obama but cannot find a job and one from a priest who asked the president to describe with specificity what he would do in the next 12 months to help an unemployed father of two teenage boys who had lost his job in manufacturing.

In both cases the ever-clueless president tried to express empathy but ended up talking about himself. He said nothing at great length. It is a sign of how lost he is that he cannot even remember to appear to answer a question. He doesn’t seem to know that a “main road” exists much less that he should be looking for it.

Peggy Noonan today notes the president’s “the president’s now-habitual political ineptness, his off-key-ness,” but this is much more than exposure of a prompter-dependent, in-over-his-head president’s discomfort with tough questions at close range.

This is looking like a leadership meltdown, the consequence of a rigid ideologue meeting rejection. John Podhoretz notes the serial rhetorical missteps of the president and cautions that “if Obama can’t get minimal hold of himself” even his most loyal troops will desert. People don’t want to follow an obviously incompetent and lost leader, no matter how much they wanted him to succeed in the first place.

Charles Krauthammer’s column today raises the even more fundamental question about the president: Does he any idea what he is doing at all? The subject isn’t the economy, but Afghanistan:

One can only conclude that Obama now thinks Afghanistan is a mistake. Maybe he thought so from the very beginning. More charitably and more likely, he is simply a foreign policy novice who didn’t understand what this war was about until being given the authority and duty to conduct it — and then decided it was all a mistake.

Fair enough. But in that case, what is he doing escalating it?

The better question, Charles, is “What is he doing, period?”

President Cliche doesn’t have a plan, for the economy, for Afghanistan, for anything it turns out. He’s just been driving and driving and driving, and now his wing man is jumping out of the speeding car to run off to Chicago after all the back-seat drivers –Orszag, Summers and Roemer– have already bailed.

We owe Bob Gates and David Petraeus even more than we knew. They are hanging in there in a lost and careening Administration because their portfolios are simply too important to abandon to this president’s next choice.

Of course the correction can begin on 11/2, but only if the MSM follies don’t obscure the choice before us. New York would be nuts to vote for Cuomo, and California even more so to vote for Jerry Brown. It would be like two stroke victims asking to be bled by leeches. But absurd media habits and the incompetence of a MSM that cannot figure out complex fiscal stories much less deconstruct a farce like Gloria Allred may tilt the playing field yet again. It may indeed take complete collapse for a big state to start over.

But I am betting not. I think Whitman will win because despite all of the complete nonsense spewing from the Lost Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee and local shock jocks without half a brain between them, voters know the score in California and how desperate the state is, how complete the collapse of hundreds of urban schools, and how bloated and absolutely useless much of the state bureaucracy. The SEIU is running a huge smear campaign on Spanish-language television against Whitman, and the teachers unions are pouring millions more into Whitman hit pieces, even as they are being flayed on screens from coast to coast in Waiting for Supermana film Whitman strongly endorsed on my program yesterday as we discussed the teachers’ unions. But voters who have been treated to story after story about the obscene profligacy of City of Bell triple-dippers are more attuned to self-interest in the government-addicted government unions than ever before. They know the housekeeper story is a giant diversion from the state’s crisis. I am hoping a majority of them don’t want more political theater, that they want jobs and a growing economy, and that in Sacramento they want Chris Christie West.

I assume as well that all the huffing and puffing out of the New York race hasn’t changed voters recognition that Albany is a diseased swamp, and that the Empire State needs a Chris Christie on steroids like Carl Paladino increasingly appears to be.

Christie has emerged as the anti-Obama, both in rhetoric, and governing style. Christie is focused, direct and on a path towards a particular set of goals. Christie answers questions. Christie takes on hard topics. Christie welcomes tough interviews.

Obama by contrast goes to student pep rallies in Madison, Wisconsin and back yard garden parties in Iowa. He avoids prepared but critical interviewers like he avoids supply-side economists. If the president knew what he was doing and where he was going, he’d be on with Hannity on Fox and me on the radio, talking to Krauthammer, Kristol and Barnes in the Oval Office, and with the Wall Street Journal editorial board. If he had a shred of the confidence that Christie exudes, Obama would be in the fight for his plan. But that would take not only confidence, it would take a plan.

If he had a case, he could make it. If he knew where he was going, he could draw a map. But he doesn’t, and that’s why the country has to send scores of grown-ups to D.C. asap. Never has strong Congressional leadership been more necessary.


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