Why Time’s Article Comparing Obama and Bush is Stupid

Time’s Mark Halperin has written an article entitled “How Obama Is Making the Same Mistakes as Bush“. Obviously, an eye-catching headline, along the lines of “6 Easy Ways You Can Save Money” (or lose weight, or get a boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.).

The problem is, it lacks substance.

Here are his points, followed by my dissection:

  • No chief economic spokesperson

Really? If you were going to make the leap that Obama is a Bush clone, assuming it were true, would the first critique be that the President doesn’t have a chief economic spokesperson?  Out of all the problems with the Bush Administration, that’s the one that really zings the most?

Let’s be real: Who was the last economic spokesperson that the American people really cared about?  If you don’t follow the news closely and regularly, how many Treasury Secretaries can you name?  It’s the President’s job to assuage the American people.  If people aren’t satisfied with the economic direction of the country, then they can blame Obama for not conveying that sense of hope.  That being said, considering how close everyone thought the country was to economic ruin not that long ago, the fact that numbers are looking up, or at least staying at a steady level, seems to suggest some level of success.

  • Failure to integrate policy, politics, and communication

By the end of Bush’s two terms, even some of his supporters were disappointed (and, at times, horrified) by how much of the decision-making at the highest levels of the government were more the result of political machinations than rigorous substantive policy-making. From its earliest days, Obama’s White House has failed to put in place the necessary procedures and personnel to move strong, serious ideas along the conveyor belt from the minds of wonky experts cloistered in the Old Executive Office Building chambers to the President’s lips as he introduces new initiatives at dramatic public events.

To summarize such a broad statement in a paragraph, as Halperin does, neglects to actually make the point, or perhaps any point at all.  Is the point that Obama is ignoring what the people want? Ignoring what is best for the country in favor of political goals?  Unclear and unsubstantiated by Halperin

  • Tying the Adminstration’s fate too closely to his own party’s congressional leadership

Problems with the argument:

1) It assumes that Obama can “go at it alone”, with no regard for those in control of Congress.

2) It assumes that the congressional leadership is in agreement with one another, allowing Obama to kowtow to them.

  • Failing to empower Cabinet members on domestic policy

Perhaps a valid critique, but ultimately a difficult balance in powers.

Summary:

All-in-all, most of the critiques are invalid.  Even the inklings of truth within them do not allow for such a misleading and ultimately inaccurate headline.

“Things Obama Could Do Better” is all the article amounts to, but that sort of accuracy wouldn’t grab many eyeballs.

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