March 10, 2009

Obama's staffing problems

Four months past the election, Obama’s basic problem with staffing is that he doesn’t know many people — not in the sense of having worked closely with them on a successful project so that he can tell who is effective and who is an empty suit. He’s not exactly Dwight Eisenhower, who came to office with a list in his head of the strengths and weaknesses as managers of hundreds of potential appointees. How many successful projects has Obama been part of other than his own self-advancement? The Chicago Annenberg Challenge? That didn’t do anything for test scores. Getting (some) asbestos out of a public housing project? Woo-hoo!

So, Obama has mostly been appointing four kinds of people: Chicagoans he knows, ex-Clintonites he read about in the newspapers during the 1990s, campaign aides, and random people who sound cool. He doesn’t know anything about economics or business, so his weaknesses at staffing Treasury are particularly glaring.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve, I love ya, dude.

But I do believe in my heart of hearts you are greatly over-analyzing BHO.

The sad truth is, rather than being the psychologically complex figure you portray in Half Blood Prince, there really isn't much going on between Obama's ears except leftist slogans and a deep desire to shop at Whole Foods.

Christopher Roach has a more simple summation of Obama's true nature:

Obama: Floundering Fast

http://mansizedtarget.wordpress.com/2009/03/05/obama-floundering-fast/

I used to be somewhat impressed with Obama as a politician. But it seems increasingly clear that he’s an empty suit.

snip

Anonymous said...

There is a certain manner of thought and habit in people who function at a high executive level. They can shift instantly from minutiae to the big picture. They will "get it" while you're only three minutes into your presentation, ask the two most pertinent questions, then render a decision and head out to the next meeting while you're standing there gape-mouthed pointing at your whiteboard. Then they'll call ahead to see if the next meeting can be handled over the phone. Once that's done, they'll schedule another executive-level meeting to fill that time. And on and on.

Of course, this is something that comes from a lifetime of wide-ranging experience and/or study, mastering complex tasks and managing other people. Law review? Grown-up version of yearbook, with bigger words. Community activism? Not comparable to being put in an organization and having to iron out all the points from A to Z so the enterprise can turn a profit.

I think Obama ends up like Carter.

--Senor Doug

michael farris said...

Okay, the real qeustion:

Do you wish that Hillary had been the Democratic nominee yet?

Toral said...

As usual, right on, Steve. I had been thinking that myself....

With 2 amendments to the argument.

Ike wasn't that great an example I don't think. His knowledge was mostly of military people, people chosen to be willing to stand in front of the bullet but rarely the sharpest knives in the drawer. Better examples would be JFK and --Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton had known (and slept with, in the case of the women) hundreds or dozens respectively whose talent he had been able to ascertain.

The one category you left out re Obama is students and teachers at HLS while he was there. Sure, everybody looks to people he met at school after taking power, but for a president, Obama's experiences with these people are a disproportionately large proportion of his total experiences with capable people. I suspect that when the history of Obama's administration is written the place of HLS graduates in Obama's time *and those recommended by them* will be huge.

Toral

Peter said...

Damn, Steve, that's a good point. Yes, you can argue that not knowing people is better than hiring all your Dad's and Karl Rove's cronies, a la Bush, but that doesn't excuse Obama. But you make a good point which bears expanding on - not since George H W Bush have we elected a person with any real managerial experience or any real talent for managing people. And no, being governor of a hick state like Arkansas does not count, and playing governor in a basically ceremonial role in Texas does not count. Look at the mediocrities we have had just at Secretary of State - Albright, Rice. Or the fact that Treasury for the last 20 years has just been a playground for Wall Street types with no adult supervision?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like we've got another Grant administration in the making. Or maybe Harding?

Assegai said...

Barack Obama has never exercised executive power in public office, nor has he held a position of responsibility in private enterprise, or a position of command in battle. Without such experience, how is he to judge the qualities of those who would serve in his administration, much less know actual individuals who might serve?

By the standard set by all the Presidents before him, Obama has no meaningful qualifications for the position of Chief Executive of the Republic. Instead, he is the culmination of racial preferences in the United States, the furthest manifestation of the impulse that put Condi Rice into office, and like her, he will be baffled and overwhelmed by events he cannot interpret or control.

Eric said...

I'm not convinced. The president has a lot of resources to find and find out about people who might be good for those positions. I suspect the problem is he doesn't want to appoint anyone who ever worked in a bank, and those are the people who know what's going on.

Tab Numlock said...

Actually, he does know quite a few people. Unfortunately, they are mostly Marxists and black radicals.

Anonymous said...

How alarming.

HLS 91 said...

I think Sandy Butts may have a hand in it, too. (Hi, Sandy!) She was managing at least a piece ofthe transition team, but was not well connected with anything other than other community activists/Capitol Hill staffers in the DC area.

Nice black girl, wore overalls at Harvard Law, didn't put on airs, but certainly not in the career groove, mixing/mingling with Dersh, Tribe, Miller, Unger or the other propeller head profs, and not getting her career ticket punched and making those lifetime connections like all the dweebie Jewish grinds.

I am surprised that all Obama's HLR peers didn't ride in to the rescue. He probably didn't stay in touch, though. Since Mayor of Chicago was his goal, they wouldn't have been much help anyway.

Let's! said...

OK, but out of 100 hypothetical black Democrat presidents, 95 of them would be more likely than Obama to fill their staffs with black cronies who were competent...at palm-greasing and kickbacks.

Luke Lea said...

I hope you are wrong. God, I hope you are wrong.

Anonymous said...

The amazing thing is how this guy is getting away with it: 100% of the MSM and pop culture is behind this guy completely. And no dissent is allowed, at all. If the market goes down, its despite O's bold plan. If it goes up one penny, its because of O's hopeful and bold leadership! Like one of those Soviet newspapers where the news is all predetermined and the facts just have to be marshalled to support it. I worry about our country right now.

Mark said...

Part of the problem at Treasury is finding a qualified person not linked to a company involved in the meltdown, or who doesn't come from a company getting bailout money. They're hard to find. Otherwise spot on.

Mitt Romney was born to handle this mess, except that he would still have had to work with a Dim congress.

airtommy said...

I think Obama ends up like Carter.

Doubtful. Carter was faced with a major economic crisis (an inflationary spiral that had begun to feed on itself) and he fixed it. Like typical children, Americans didn't like the medicine Carter prescribed (an independent Fed chairman tasked with one job: kill inflation). But they sure as heck enjoyed the resulting prosperity.

Obama is faced with a major economic crisis. Do you really think Obama is going to prescribe a tough love cure?

testing99 said...

Toral --

That's one of the dumbest statements ever made. Military people, professional military like Ike, they succeed only by mastering pretty much everything. Results are what counts, and the results are totaled in blood and victory, or defeat.

Professional Military even in Ike's day were nearly all Academy grads, who went on to do post-grad study, and wrote serious books about tactics, strategy, and technology. For example, Patton, often derided as the glory hogging mad dog of George C Scott's portrayal, and certifiably insane, was a careful student of both logistics and enemy generals. He did indeed read Rommell's book, and Guderian's too, and wrote articles in the 1930's in Armed Forces journals discussing in detail the successful balance between armament/armor and mobility for tank warfare.

Using the same tanks that Monty used, and got slaughtered with at Caen and everywhere else (thin armor, peashooter guns), Patton used the one winning attribute of the Shermans: mobility, and swept around to encircle the Germans like the Mongols on their ponies.

Military people, professional ones that plan on living, HAVE to be smart. Ike was not just judging people who were talented, he was judging who got soldiers killed needlessly and who won big victories, as well as who kept them supplied, who did not, who trained them well, who did not. Ike commanded a combined force of about 5 million men, including Army Air, Naval Forces, and the various combat and support forces. There was no finer prep for President and in some senses his role as President was a step down from Supreme Allied Commander.

Obama has plenty of Black cronies. His problem is that the Democratic bench is thin, and most of the people he knows are either too wacky and lunatic in their written record (Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn), too corrupt (Richardson) or both (Chas Freeman). Look at Freeman. Quite apart from his reflexive blaming of Israel sure to draw unfavorable attention to Obama's own record and suggest (once again) that Obama is a secret Mulsim, there's Freeman serving on the board of CNOOC, the Prince Talal Foundation (the one Rudy tore up a check from), various other Saudi front organizations. Then there are his lunatic statements that Tianmen Square was too "merciful" and that the Saudis were fountains of peace and tolerance, and that the US caused 9/11 and the reaction to 9/11 was "racist."

How thin Obama's bench really is gets shown by Freeman. It's a sensitive post that is usually given to some non-controversial Intel lifer, and Obama picks that guy.

There was an LAT article on a whole bunch of Obama staffers in the campaign pissed off that they are not getting any jobs. Of course not, they are too loony or corrupt or both. Heck Freeman was probably better than the alternatives. Which is pathetic. The Brits are complaining there is no one answering the phones when they call to talk about policy for the G-20 international finance rescue plan.

Even Bush II could keep the lights on and have basic day-to-day policy run OK. Obama cannot even run daily government. He has turned over most stuff to Reid and Pelosi, a few staffers, and the various activist orgs. While he has nightly parties, a big Wed. blowout, and is basically called stoned by the British Press ("tired and emotional.")

Lucius Vorenus said...

Steve Sailer: Four months past the election, Obama’s basic problem with staffing is that he doesn’t know many people — not in the sense of having worked closely with them on a successful project so that he can tell who is effective and who is an empty suit.

Obama's problem is the same as any other quota hire's problem: He's got the IQ of a can of peas.

I tried to warn you people last year about this myth of "Obama the Genius", but nobody wanted to listen to me.

You know, there's a reason that old prejudices never die.

PS: Don't you think it's just a little odd that the President of the United States - the [ostensible] leader of the [ostensibly] free world - needs not one but TWO teleprompters before he can deign to answer reporter's questions? [And handpicked hometeam reporters, no less - lobbing slowballs over the center of home plate?]

If the Obama presidency were a Monty Python skit, we'd all be bellyaching in laughter.

But as it is, this surreal nightmare is trending past the tragicomical and heading fast towards the tragic.

Oh well, from the glass-is-half-full point of view, at least it serves to speed up the clock on secession.

Black Sea said...

"His [Eisenhower's]knowledge was mostly of military people, people chosen to be willing to stand in front of the bullet but rarely the sharpest knives in the drawer."

Yep, poor Ike was mostly acquainted with such "ooh-rah" dimwits as Douglas MacArthur (who, narcissism aside, may well have been a genius), George Marshall, and Omar Bradley, who, between the wars, taught math at West Point.

Oh, and Eisenhower orchestrated the Normandy invasion and subsequent defeat of the Third Reich. Still, he didn't have as many notches on the bedpost as JFK or Clinton so . . . oh, forget it.

Anonymous said...

Obama will be a hybrid of jimmy carter and herbert hoover. activist, interventionist policy, well meaning, left-wing, and ultimately a failure. question is, which republican could run in 2012?

Anonymous said...

you people forget that the whole democratic party is involved in this stuff.

headache said...

michael farris said...

Okay, the real qeustion:

Do you wish that Hillary had been the Democratic nominee yet?



Good point. This angle has not been analysed by Steve yet. There was a similar point on Taki's yesterday. I'm beginning to understand this is the real reason so many voted for Obama. It shows how desperately people hate the Clinton’s that they prefer an empty suit with clear anti-white beliefs to the arrogant and corrupt Clintons.

Anonymous said...

Britain's top civil servant can't even get anyone in the Obama administration to answer the phone.
Sir Gus O'Donnell is trying to organise the G20 summit.
'You get to a certain point, and you can't go any further,' said Sir Gus.

'If there's a change of administration, you're out, and a whole new bunch of people come in who probably haven't been in government before.'

Full story here
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1161037/Special-relationship-Obamas-people-wont-answer-phone-whines-Downing-Street.html

Anonymous said...

testing99 said...
Military people, professional military like Ike, they succeed only by mastering pretty much everything. Results are what counts ... Military people, professional ones that plan on living, HAVE to be smart ... Ike commanded a combined force of about 5 million men, including Army Air, Naval Forces, and the various combat and support forces. There was no finer prep for President...


While I agree that Ike was overall a good President and that being a successful general isn't to be sneezed at, distinguished high-level military service doesn't guarantee that someone will make a good President. The classic example would be Ulysees Grant, one of our greatest generals and worst Presidents. The skill sets for the two positions overlap only somewhat. I do not, for instance, think that Patton or LeMay (both superb generals) would have made good Presidents.

Anonymous said...

There was no finer prep for President and in some senses his role as President was a step down from Supreme Allied Commander.

T99 is right here, but Ike's preparation was not just in the war: people forget that he was a staff officer based in Washington DC from 1929 to 1935, and again from '39 to '41. As such he was working intensely with the junior congressional staffers, rising congressmen, and cabinet department assistants of the day, who by January 1953 were getting to the top of their various organizations. Eisenhower knew, and had the measure of, just about everybody in official Washington by the time he became POTUS, and he had an expert knowledge of how Washington works.

Vanya said...

Eisenhower orchestrated the Normandy invasion and subsequent defeat of the Third Reich.

No, Stalin orchestrated the defeat of the Third Reich. Eisenhower just made sure that France, Italy, and most of Germany didn't join the Soviet Empire. And for that he deserves copious praise, but the US did not beat Germany, Russia did.

Anonymous said...


How thin Obama's bench really is gets shown by Freeman. It's a sensitive post that is usually given to some non-controversial Intel lifer, and Obama picks that guy.


Yeah, we can see what really bugs Testy. Lol.

Obviously more Freemans ("free men"!) and fewer neocons would bode well for America, though maybe not so well for Testy.

headache said...

At this stage it matters squat how competent Obama's team is or not. The collective MSM and theological apparatus are going to carry the flake through 2012. Who cares after that anyway? O's biggest challenge is filling up the US with enough non-white voting bodies by 2016 that the Dems have a permanent majority. Mission accomplished. This is the only real task Obama has and is an exact continuation of the rot initiated by Teddy Kennedy and his backroom operatives in 1965.

Anonymous said...

Money quote from Roach:

All that “Dreams of My Father” talk is about giving from the rich to the poor in the name of equality and “social justice.” It’s ignorant of the need for stable laws, limited government, low taxes, transparency, and the necessary inequality to actually encourage the creation of wealth. Liberals are ignorant of the past and are surprisingly parochial. They assume the western world’s money just fell out of the sky or, at best, was stolen or ill gotten. They don’t realize how others trying this redistributionist formula in places like Russia, Mexico, and Argentina have ruined otherwise promising societies.

That sums it up. Obama's just a chic radical who never advanced in maturity beyond 3L at Harvard and thinks business prints all this money for him and his social engineer buddies to redistribute.

--Senor Doug

Anonymous said...

question is, which republican could run in 2012?

Since at least 1976 the answer has been pretty clear: the Republican nominee is almost always the incumbent or the guy who finished second in the last open primary.

1976, 1984, 1992, 2004: all incumbents.

1980, 1988, 1996, 2008: the guy who finished second.

2000 was the exception. W's nomination was like a second term for his father.

In 2012 that gives us Romney and Huckabilly as the leading contenders, plus perhaps Palin. If Obama's performance is still an issue that makes Huckabilly a no-go. Romney may still have the evangelical problem, but he is (and was) by far the person objectively the most qualified. If evangelicals still refuse to vote for a Mormon then we're all screwed. I've never hated evangelicals, but I might just start...

Do you really think Obama is going to prescribe a tough love cure?

And that's part of the problem. Presidents today are too damn worried about getting re-elected to actually take the tough love approach. At least 2 of our best presidents did all of their work in a single term, whether deliberately (Polk) or not (Lincoln). You can get more good work done in a single term where you're still viewed as a threat than in two terms where you're spending your first term trying to get re-elected and the second where you're tired and people are getting bored with you.

dearieme said...

It's hard to know who will make a good President. Ike did, but he was a most peculiar military fellow in that he had never seen action. Reagan did, from a background in faking baseball commentaries. Truman did, from a background as a failed small businessman and a political career in a corrupt city machine. It's very hard to generalise.

albertosaurus said...

Actually testing99 doesn't go quite far enough in his defense of Patton. Despite the fact that in the movie Patton declares over and over that he is no diplomat, that's exactly what Patton was between the wars, a military diplomat. His metier was the political cocktail party.

In the movie George C. Scott after his tank victory over the Germans screams "I read your book". Indeed Rommel's book was a best seller in Germany and was popular among the US officer corps. But it was a book on infantry tactics not tank tactics. Rommel used his book's fame with Hitler and the German people to finagle a tank command. He knew nothing about tanks when he led his tank group in the invasion of France. Of course he was a quick study and soon became the master of such tactics - although he never was respected for his strategic acumen.

Anonymous said...

Ike was also President of Columbia University, 1948-1950.

bbartlog said...

Agree with those who have already reamed Toral: if you think the military brass are blockheads (and especially if you think the military brass in *freaking 1952*, not far off of WWII, were blockheads), I can only assume that you have antimilitary prejudices. And I speak as someone who isn't that fond of the military.

As regards Steve's point, though - I think this is ultimately a failure of management skill, not a question of knowing enough people personally. If Obama had enough judgment and ability to delegate, he could rely on someone else who *did* have a large social network, and recruit on that basis. The problem is that he didn't do that. I don't know whether it's one of the things you were looking at, but a nice example is the appointment of Desiree Rogers as white house social secretary, and the subsequent minor gaffes with gifts to Gordon Brown. Rogers is out of her depth, but she's a Chicago pal, so she got the job.

Svigor said...

OK, but out of 100 hypothetical black Democrat presidents, 95 of them would be more likely than Obama to fill their staffs with black cronies who were competent...at palm-greasing and kickbacks.
True, but the same 95 would have gone no further than "black Democrat presidential hopeful".

Anonymous said...

Lucius Vorenus said:
Obama's problem is the same as any other quota hire's problem: He's got the IQ of a can of peas.

Good one!

Anonymous said...

Vanya sed:
"No, Stalin orchestrated the defeat of the Third Reich."

Thanks for pointing that out. Russian soldiers were fighting with bayonets to their backs. Basically the Germans ran into mud, a harsh winter, endless supply lines and a wall of corpses.

nitwit said...

Svigor,
why did you drop your link?

Mark said...

but a nice example is the appointment of Desiree Rogers as white house social secretary, and the subsequent minor gaffes with gifts to Gordon Brown.

Minor gaffes?

A) Return a very nice gift of the Winston Churchill to the British.

B) Downgrade the joint press conference.

C) Have an aid say 'Britain's no more important to the US than any other country.'

D) Give a guy with bad eyesight a crappy set of DVDs - a faux pas on two counts.

One or two mistakes is a gaffe. That's not a gaffe. That's a deliberate message - a big, giant socialist Halfrican middle finger aimed at our closest ally.

I'm not sure this whole mess is just a failure of maagement skill. It's a failure of Democrats being neither as smart nor as ethical as they thought they were. I also happen to think that the more, uh, "diverse" the Democratic Party gets. the more screw-ups we're going to have.

O's biggest challenge is filling up the US with enough non-white voting bodies by 2016 that the Dems have a permanent majority.

Probably true, but how do you do that when the nation is bleeding jobs and we're borrowing a trillion a year? At some point you can no longer afford o let Americans stay at home collecting unemployment checks. At some poin the Chinese stop lending you money, or run out of money to even lend.

Truth said...

"Military people, professional ones that plan on living, HAVE to be smart "

Yeah, or some clumsy private might spill a hot cup of coffee on him at his Pentagon office during a war, or maybe a crony will miss swing as shank a dangerous golf ball his way at his heavily armed and fortified bunker.

Anonymous said...

Dearime - Ike did, but he was a most peculiar military fellow in that he had never seen action. Reagan did, from a background in faking baseball commentaries. Truman did, from a background as a failed small businessman and a political career in a corrupt city machine. It's very hard to generalise.

Ike - He wasnt a fighter but he was a manager on a large scale. Directing a large military force on land, sea and air. Overseeing relations between the US and British military. That's got to count for something.

Reagan - he didn't just spring into the Whitehouse from nowhere. Army reserve for years before WW2. Reasonably senior rank while involved with military film making. Screen Actors guild. Gov of California.

Truman - Was also an army officer, yes corrupt city machine but did become senator.

All of them far more rounded characters than BHO.

Mencius Moldbug said...

Eisenhower, like Marshall, was a New Deal political general. Both were promoted quickly because of their strong social connections in "enlightened" circles.

I don't know which of the legends about them is true, but I would put little credence in any of them. Eg: if George Marshall had such a good memory, why couldn't he remember where he was on the night of December 6, 1941?

I would not put complete credence in the Robert Welch version of these two gentlemen, but I come close.

BTW, the staff officer responsible for much of Eisenhower's actual generalship was Albert Wedemeyer. His memoir, Wedemeyer Reports, is acutely interesting for anyone who cares about the period. It says much the same things as, say, Pat Buchanan, but its tone is much more tempered and credible, and it is of course a primary source.

H. said...

I have myself been puzzling over Obama's gift to Brown. To give any head of state a box of DVDs is collossally inappropriate, especially if they include titles like _ET_. To give such a gift to Britain's head of state--our closest ally and all--is doubly bad. Was it just an instance of Obama's level of culture, or was he deliberately belittling our relationship with the UK?

Gene Berman said...

Reagan was at least somewhat famous before he ever went to Hollywood--and for good reason.

As a summer lifeguard at a beach (in Illinois), Reagan was frequently in the newspapers for saving lives. He's credited with 77separate successful rescue incidents, including one which involved him in swimming out into the lake and searching for a missing man in total night darkness (he found the guy and brought him back alive). As far as I know, he still holds the "world record" for single-handed lifesaving.

Lucius Vorenus said...

H.: I have myself been puzzling over Obama's gift to Brown. To give any head of state a box of DVDs is collossally inappropriate, especially if they include titles like _ET_. To give such a gift to Britain's head of state--our closest ally and all--is doubly bad. Was it just an instance of Obama's level of culture, or was he deliberately belittling our relationship with the UK?

H - the reason for your bewilderment is that you haven't yet tried to analyze the situation from the point of view of a can of peas.

Black Sea said...

" . . Stalin orchestrated the defeat of the Third Reich."

Who . . . ?

Svigor said...

Svigor,
why did you drop your link?


Didn't, just had to nuke my OS (over a period of about 3 days) and didn't feel like typing it out. I'm getting back into the habit now.

Svigor said...

It's hard to imagine 0bama was deliberately snubbing UK with the gift. Why "snub" someone by making an ass of yourself?

It's possible, but if so one can't really underestimate how much of an F.U. is intended, which makes it hard for me to believe.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Moldbug, Albert Wedemeyer probably belongs on the list of the 20 most influential people of the 20th century that few have even heard of.

Ronduck said...

Headache said...

O's biggest challenge is filling up the US with enough non-white voting bodies by 2016 that the Dems have a permanent majority. Mission accomplished. This is the only real task Obama has and is an exact continuation of the rot initiated by Teddy Kennedy and his backroom operatives in 1965.

Don't you find it strange that despite being proabortion Ted Kennedy has never been excommunicated?

Mr. Anon said...

"HLS 91 said...

I think Sandy Butts may have a hand in it, too.

Nice black girl, wore overalls at Harvard Law, didn't put on airs,...."

I am not an HLS alumni, as by your moniker you obviously are, but.....isn't wearing overalls at law school itself a form of "putting on airs"?

Anonymous said...

Don't you find it strange that despite being proabortion Ted Kennedy has never been excommunicated?

Good point. Though I'm a fan of the current pope, who is a born-again believer by any measure, the Catholic hierarchy, especially the ones in Europe and the US, are sometimes corrupt. Mind you, even in evangelical circles some are more equal than others. I guess Ted has friends...

headache said...

"Was it just an instance of Obama's level of culture, or was he deliberately belittling our relationship with the UK?"

Considering the degree of structural support affordedby the MSM, assorted Soros-type foundations and the liberal establishment in general, I fear O. tends to be vastly overrated. I'd bet its more of an indication of his lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

Soros and friends decided that the way to take the Presidency for the Democrats was to find a young, good looking Black guy that Blacks would vote for because he's Black, liberals would vote for to prove they aren't racist, and women will vote for because he's sexy and exotic.

They hired David Axelrod to do a test run in Massachusetts with Deval Patrick and Axelrod proved to be a genius in marketing to those groups.

When they saw Obama speak at the Democratic Convention they knew they'd found their guy. The rest is history.

Of course he's an empty suit. He was never supposed to be anything else. They're letting him play at Robin Hood because the really rich don't worry about taxes, long term debt, government deficits.

They're making so much money selling the US economy short an uptick in taxes is a gust of wind on a beautiful day.