Peggy Noonan for The Wall Street Journal: Amateur Hour at the White House

September 22nd, 2011

The Wall Street Journal

Amateur Hour at the White House

But at the U.N., Obama stands tall, while Perry makes himself small.


September 22, 2011, 5:11 PM

By Peggy Noonan

A small secret. In writing about the White House or Congress, I always feel completely free to attempt to see things clearly, to consider the evidence, to sift it through experience and knowledge, and then to make a judgment. It may be highly critical, or caustic, even damning. But deep down I always hope I’m wrong—that it isn’t as bad as I say it is, that there is information unknown to me that would explain such and such an act, that there were factors I didn’t know of that make bad decisions suddenly explicable. Or even justifiable.

I note this to make clear the particular importance, for me, of Ron Suskind’s book on the creation of President Obama’s economic policy, “Confidence Men.” If Mr. Suskind is right, I have been wrong in my critiques of the president’s economic policy. None of it was as bad as I said. It was much worse.

The most famous part of the book is the Larry Summers quote that he saw it as a “Home Alone” administration, with no grown-ups in charge. But there’s more than that. Most of us remember the president as in a difficult position from day one: two wars and an economic crash, good luck with that. But Mr. Suskind recasts the picture.

Like FDR, Mr. Obama had big advantages: “overwhelming popular support, Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, and the latitude afforded by crisis.” But things were weird from the beginning. Some of his aides became convinced that his “lack of . . . managerial experience” would do him in. He ran meetings as if they were afternoon talk shows. An unnamed adviser says the 2009 stimulus legislation was the result of “poor conceptualizing.” Another: “We should have spent more time thinking about where the money was being spent, rather than simply that there was this hole of a certain size in the economy that needed to be filled, so fill it.” Well, yes. Read More…