Tom Finneran: President Obama’s New Year
Friday, January 03, 2014
We should know by now that elections have consequences. If the electorate is less than judicious about vetting candidates or even about the act of voting itself, then we get what we deserve. Good and hard, right between the eyes, like a pole axe punch.
The President could use some help these days and I remain in a generous and festive holiday mood. Thus I come to the President’s table bearing gifts in the form of advice.
In a nutshell Mr. President you have to dump some of the idiots around you. Who are these people and what have they ever done? And, if you cannot answer the question convincingly Mr. President, more and more Americans will start asking the same question about you—what have you ever done? In the sixth year of your administration, the notion of community organizing has become a punchline for late night comics, bound to generate both laughter and regret. That’s not a good place to be Mr. President, particularly for a fellow who has bathed for years in a warm bubble bath of sycophantic press.
Ditch the sycophants
I’m here to help so let’s start with your presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett. If the quotes attributed to her regarding your abilities are accurate, then you have already done her a massive five-year favor of carrying her on a public payroll. Let her go, anywhere, but she must go. The quote I have in mind carries no possibility of creating a sense of modesty or humility in you, attributes which would well serve any President. Ms. Jarrett apparently believes that you are “the black Jesus”, so much more gifted and wiser than everyone else that “you are bored” by the surrounding mediocrity of Congress and Governors and other public and private leaders. Pardon my insolence Mr. President but could you briefly set aside your boredom and pay attention to the human horror of sixty months of an official unemployment rate in excess of seven percent. I suspect that the real number is much higher, masked only by the fact that many Americans have become so discouraged or so “disabled” as to no longer participate in the workforce. And I know, factually, that the black unemployment rate is sky-high, effectively destroying the hopes of many families. Please tell Ms. Jarrett in her exit interview that your “boredom” is not a reassuring strategy. Nor is it particularly soothing to the thoughts of Americans who sense a national decline underway, past, present, and future. Don’t take this personally Mr. President but the best advisers any leader can have are those who will close the door and tell you that you are not as wise as either you or Ms. Jarrett appear to think. Choose someone who will ask you point-blank “are you out of your mind” and who will pointedly challenge all of your assumptions.
Ms. Jarrett is not alone in her silly worship of your perceived greatness. The historian Michael Beschloss stands in a uniquely embarrassing position. Mr. Beschloss is a noted historian and the author of several books on American Presidents. I’m no historian and I accept Mr. Beschloss’ academic and literary credentials as well established. How then to explain his statements that “his (Obama’s) IQ is off the charts” and that you are “the smartest man to ever assume the office of the presidency”. Is he off his rocker? I can name no less than eleven Presidents who are likely considerably smarter and I have no pretensions to being an avid student of the presidency. There are probably several more, but here is my list: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Please note by the way that the mere presence of ample grey matter is no guarantee of success in the office—witness Wilson and Carter in meeting the challenges of their years.
Adopt a more modest tone
I realize that Mr. Beschloss is not part of your administration but the silliness of his comments affects you. Perhaps it’s too late to suggest that a correction be forthcoming from Mr. Beschloss. That would not be terribly practical five years into the Obama era and it would probably bring unwanted public attention to his most unfortunate utterances. However Mr. President, it is not too late to adopt a more modest mien, the sort of humility that truly wise men and women demonstrate when they surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are and who are encouraged to challenge your thinking. You do not need, nor do you benefit from, an unlimited supply of yes-men. In short Mr. President, if you think, as has been alleged, that you are always the “smartest guy in the room”, then you should leave the room. The current occupants are serving neither you nor the nation well.
A closing thought Mr. President—forget for a while the “rise of the oceans” as an object of your vaunted prowess. Concentrate a little more on the rise of America from its multi-year slump. And get some wiser folks in the room with you. Happy New Year.
Rhode Island’s Most and Least Popular Politicians
The statewide poll conducted by the Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University in October 2013 is the latest public opinion survey by the Ivy League institution.
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