Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why does President Obama keep advertising his indecision? 

This, I think, is a curious public relations strategy (bold emphasis added):

President Obama and his war council plan today to review four basic strategy options for Afghanistan that could increase the number of U.S. troops there by as many as 40,000 or fewer than 10,000.

The White House insisted Tuesday that Obama has not decided how many additional troops to send or how he will deploy them, though the White House has narrowed the options to those outlined by his national security team, the Pentagon and Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top U.S. and allied commander in Afghanistan.

The White House has in fact been insisting for weeks that Barack Obama has not yet decided what to do about Afghanistan. What might once have been judicious deliberation is looking increasingly like analysis paralysis. The question is, why does the White House publicity operation believe that the failure to decide -- or, if you want to be charitable, the delay in making a decision -- is something to be "insisted" upon?

I suspect that some of the reason is that the current administration is led and dominated by lawyers. Lawyers, as a matter of professional impulse, respect deliberation per se, and regard the process for reaching a decision to be as if not more important than the substance. To a lawyer, if a decision is not made for the right reason then it is a bad decision even if everything works out for the best in the end. We learn this in law school, and the argument is made in American courtrooms every hour of every day.

The lawyer's high regard for process and analytical rigor is quite different from the cognitive style of most executives, such as business and military leaders. Analysis certainly informs executive function, but decision-makers integrate it with more ineffable considerations, including the messaging value inherent in actually making a decision. Leaders understand that most people (but generally not lawyers!) want to be led, and that leadership consists in no small part of being seen to make decisions efficiently and quickly. Barack Obama's White House does not seem to get that. If the administration keeps "insisting" that Obama has not decided on things, people are going to start wishing for a "Decider."


By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Wed Nov 11, 02:03:00 PM:

I suspect that some of the reason is that the current administration is led and dominated by lawyers.

Much simpler than that. People with NPD never want to be the one ones the hook for a hard decision, because there's no convenient scape goats if it blows up in their face.

In this case the decision is solely the presidents, and he doesn't want to make it.

The paralysis is due to Obama's malignant narcissism and little else.  

By Anonymous MainStreet, at Wed Nov 11, 02:14:00 PM:

I never thought lawyers liked deliberation, I just thought that they liked the additional fees the delays brought them. After all, each phone call puts another 15 minute charge on the clients bill.

As for Obama, he is just waiting for the polls to give him a clue as to what to do. Right now the polls are basically in never-never land.  

By Anonymous Mr. Ed, at Wed Nov 11, 02:51:00 PM:

It appears to me that he is receiving policy recommendations that will annoy the left.

As Paul Rahe has noted at Powerline, Obama will bravely insult those not living on the left including dear old friends, and his administration will in my observations threaten opinion leaders on the left who do not toe the line (like threatening those who appear on Fox), but the left side of political opinion is about all he has going for him these days.

He is loathe to offend the left I think. I also do not think he will, even though whatever he decides you can be sure he will paint it as a well considered, middle ground.

I think paralysis hits the nail on the head. I'm sorry to say I believe he is consumed by the domestic political equation above all else. That's not entirely stupid.

Clinton could handle the same complex calculus and bring it to a conclusion. GWB and Reagan had the executive skill to insist that advisors summarize the issues succinctly to facilitate decision making.

Oh well. He's the Prez. It's going to be a long three years. Then bye.


By Blogger Mystery Meat, at Wed Nov 11, 02:55:00 PM:

Obama is a guy used to voting "Present" on tough issues. He is reverting to form.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Nov 11, 03:25:00 PM:

For the record, the Dems calimed Bush was dithering during the several months it took him to decide The New Way Forward aka The Surge.

Following the bombing in Samarra in February 2006, and increased viloence throughout the Spring, Bush spent the rest of 2006 listening to advisers and experts and generals and politicians as to what to do next. Heck, his Republican congress even commissioned a study group in the spring 06 to help him figure out a new strategy. He received his first briefing on the Surge in June 2006, followed by assessments by each of the State Dept, the Defense Department, the NSC, and the Pentagon. Still no decision. Through the fall, no decision. It wasn't until the Republicans were routed at the polls In November that Bush ditched his Secretary of Defense and announced he was considering the Surge.

Even then he told the American public "I will not be rushed into making a difficult decision … a necessary decision," At the appropriate time," The Decider said, "I'll stand up in front of the nation and say, 'Here's where we're headed.'" The surge wasn't announce until January 2007.

Let's not forget also that the surge was an increase of 25,000 troops or about 15% increase in troops there Obama already added increased the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by 70% when he added 21,000 troops in March (most of whom are just arrving now). Another 40,000 would be a 60% increase on top of that. Just a little perspective folks....  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Nov 11, 04:04:00 PM:

IMO the AF (non) decision illustrates the odd belief of Obama and Company that his every act is worthy of adoration and his every thought is somehow far beyond the wisdom of mere mortals.

If that premise is correct it would follow that a decision itself cannot be wrong, or made too slowly, or even matter at all.

Instead, what matters is that mankind admire his virtue and dutifully accept his guidance.

K Too.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Wed Nov 11, 05:22:00 PM:

Wonder of wonders!

The Democrats elected...and the Republicans allowed them to elect...a president who has virtually no working knowledge of history, no executive experience, no military background and, from what I have seen, is completely driven by the political winds.

To give credit where it is due, he is a gifted orator. Unfortunately, we have almost a years experience in seeing that what he says so eloquently...and what he does...bear no resemblance to one another.

...yet we have discussions regarding why he cannot make up his mind.

Sorry gents - he can't make up his mind because he is unprincipled and incompetent.

Hopefully the electorate will help him make up his mind next year...and dump him two years after that if the lesson is unheeded.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Wed Nov 11, 05:29:00 PM:

This is what occurs when a person with minimal experience as an executive is suddenly faced with decisions: deer in the headlights, a.k.a. dithering.

I find it amusing that Anonymous @ 03:25:00 PM brings up the issue of making a decision on the surge, given what Senator Obama tried to do to the surge: his early 2007 resolution would have had all combat troops out of Iraq by March 2008. Had Congress and President Bush followed Senator Obama's advice on the Surge, it would have failed.

That being said, we do have a problem with Afghanistan: Pakistan. That would make decisions problematic, regardless of who is President. It appears that Pakistan sans Musharraf is doing a little better.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Nov 11, 06:33:00 PM:

I love the word "ineffable." Just sayin'.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Wed Nov 11, 10:18:00 PM:

This indecision is an absolute, stomach-turning disgrace. Just awful. Our leadership, and this spreads well beyond the president, is incapable.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Thu Nov 12, 01:21:00 AM:

This comes as absolutely no surprise to those of us who saw well before the election that BO was an empty suit with no executive or leadership experience. Until Jan. 20 2009 he never had to take repsonsibility for anything in his life.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 12, 05:26:00 AM:

Obama is not ignorant of history. His version comes from the likes of Zinn and Wright.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 12, 05:29:00 AM:


For someone with little or no executive experience he seems to be doing remarkably well at getting his agenda through.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Nov 12, 08:12:00 AM:

Our entire foreign policy is a mess. Allies are snubbed, enemies act without fear of check. Iraq and Afghanistan are in melt-down. Russia is practicing nuclear attack on Poland, for crhissake, and no one complains! It's all frightening, and just awful.

Oddly, since the WH has so many regional "special envoys" or "regional coordinators", the SecState can reasonably claim to be above the horror. I expect her to resign before mid-year 2010, to "rest and reflect", and then she will challenge the Won in 2010. If there is a GOP wave in Congress the voters, not wanting to make the mistake of giving all power to one party again, could well elect her.  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Thu Nov 12, 09:51:00 AM:

I think a great amount of the way we think of a public official is shaped by how we think about public officials. And this feedback loop is fed by public perception (as filtered through the press) of the decisions the officials make, and therefore the way people react to them. By the last days of the Bush administration, he could have made an announcement that he was in favor of the sunrise, and every pol in Washington would have made a beeline for the cameras to state their unabashed and eternal support of sunset.

In Obama’s case, he took office with a great deal of fanfare and a series of vague policy plans. In *every* case where he makes any decision at all, there will always be a number of people who will disagree with him, and this group of people will be *different* for each decision he makes. As Obama has worked his way through his first year in office, each decision cheeses off one group or another of his supporters, and this is reflected in his constantly dropping poll numbers. Now he’s faced with a nasty decision, does he (censored) off his liberal base and send more expensive troops to a war they do not support, or does he withdraw and try feebly to blame Bush on the resulting disaster?

Doing a heck of a job there, Barry.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Nov 12, 03:37:00 PM:

"Bush spent the rest of 2006 listening to advisers and experts and generals and politicians as to what to do next"

That's not completely accurate. Bush 'stayed the course' because that's what his commanding generals told him to do. It just turned out that he had shitty generals. There was a minor insurgency of Colonels far ahead of the changing courses of action. (ref: HR McMaster) General Casey insisted all the way up through last year that 'surging' was not the way to go, that troops needed to hide out in their FOBs and have a small footprint. Turned out he was wrong. Casey was canned and replaced with someone who had a little more fire and who was a counterinsurgency expert to boot; Petraeus.

In Bush's case, he was advised by his general to delay. In this case, Obama is specifically going against the advice of his general (who he appointed specifically to implement new strategies, by the way) by delaying, apparently for domestic political reasons.

He's too weak for this job.  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Thu Nov 12, 06:41:00 PM:

"For someone with little or no executive experience he seems to be doing remarkably well at getting his agenda through."

What exactly IS "his agenda", praytell?

So far, all we have seen as his legislative "success" is a prepackaged mega-bill rewarding all of the Democrat political drones for their service and contributions...and packaged as a "Stimulus". We were told that the passage of the bill was a necessity to avert a crisis. Without the bill, unemployment would surge and institutions would fail.

The Democrat majorities in the House and Senate voted to reward their supplicants.

...and...so we now have institutions failing and unemployment aver 10%. Recall that THAT was the alleged effect of NO STIMULUS BILL!

As an aside, we are a trilion dollars further in debt.

He passed Cap & Trade in the House, which had no hope of survival in the Senate.

He passed Healthcare legislation in the House, which has only a wisp of a prayer in the Senate.

His popularity is tanking, his independent and young voter support is now gone, his advocacy of two state governership elections failed, his ability to maintain security is jocular and many of his appointments have been trashed by even the liberal media.

We are watching a failing presidency. Executive prowess does not exactly come to mind amongst my descriptions of this poor fellow.

I think his greatest failure...and perhaps the one that will be remembered the most, was his advocacy of racial identity politics in a country yearning to put race issues where they belong...behind us!!  

By Blogger Cardinalpark, at Fri Nov 13, 03:36:00 PM:

I think Shakespeare was onto something...  

By Blogger Unknown, at Sun Nov 22, 03:43:00 AM:

In other breaking news, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

Perhaps Obama's waiting for an opportune photo op. He makes Jimmy Carter look good.  

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