September 16, 2013

Arch-Lib Al Hunt: ‘Obama’s Syria Meanderings Border on Incompetence,’ But Bush 43 ‘Fatally Tarred’ With It

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:44 pm

If President Barack Obama is losing Al Hunt, there is definitely trouble in Lefty-land.

But let’s not go too far. In the midst of leveling criticisms at Obama as “bordering on incompetence,” the former host of Capital Gang on CNN and executive editor at Bloomberg News, who is now a Bloomberg View columnist and host of a Bloomberg TV’s Political Capital Sunday news show, cited three examples of supposedly indisputable George W. Bush administration incompetence, none of which fits the description.

For those who are new to Hunt’s liberal bent, a brief cruise through his archive at NewsBusters is revealing.

In May, he declared the word “scandal” a “misnomer” in describing Benghazi, the IRS targeting of conservative, tea party and family values groups, and the Justice Department’s spying on the New York Times’s James Rosen (in a partial walkback, he called Obama “no better than Nixon” in regards to the Rosen situation a short time later).

In July 2010, he described calls to rein in the runaway growth of the federal government “not very rational.” A few months earlier in a PBS appearance, he didn’t hesitate to use the obscene “tea bagger” reference. In April of that year, he attacked the Tea Party movement’s widespread appeal as “not being America.”

In his Sunday Bloomberg Views column, Hunt made sure to level harsher criticisms at Bush 43 than he did at Obama (bolds are mine):

Obama’s Syria Meanderings Border on Incompetence

President Barack Obama risks getting stuck with a rap as toxic as an unpopular war or a troubled economy: incompetence.

The president may escape collateral damage if the ambitious deal reached Sept. 14 between the U.S. and Russia holds and Syria relinquishes its chemical weapons. Despite the conventional wisdom, Obama did a pretty good job last week of threading the needle between the imperative to respond to the gassing of civilians by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the overwhelming desire of Americans not to get bogged down in another fight.

The White House says that what matters is the outcome, not the process. Yet the administration’s overall handing of the Syrian situation, particularly in the last two weeks, has friends and foes shaking their heads. The U.S. government’s response has been anything but measured, coherent and purposeful.

… This criticism follows earlier complaints, often from Democrats, about the White House’s miscalculations in dealing with irrational Republican demands on debt and deficit issues, and the unwillingness of the president to seek counsel beyond his small comfort zone.

Bush’s Missteps

Obama’s predecessor was fatally tarred with incompetence in the initial year of his second term. President George W. Bush was politically tone deaf on his top domestic priority of reforming Social Security, insensitive and inept in his handling Hurricane Katrina and floundering from the botched Iraq War and its aftermath.

Let’s work backwards on Hunt’s charges of incompetence leveled at Bush 43.

First and foremost, the U.S. military deposed Saddam Hussein and ultimately routed Al Qaeda and won the Iraq War after Bush defied the left and much of the Republican conservative establishment by allowing General David Petraeus to employ the “surge” strategy in 2007 and 2008. Al Hunt can call the war “botched” all he wants, but he can’t take away the fact that U.S. troops were victorious, and that if Iraq ultimately falls back into chaos, that will all be on Barack Obama’s administration.

The Hurricane Katrina catastrophe is almost entirely on the progressive leftist shoulders of then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and then-Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, who anyone involved with emergency management would acknowledge had primary responsibility for ensuring the safety of their citizens. Blanco’s incompetence was so obvious that she chose not to run for reelection in 2007; the linked item accurately describes her as “an incompetent buffoon.”

Nagin infamously allowed hundreds of school buses which could have been used to help evacuate city residents to remain parked in a depot which got flooded.


The naysayers claim that “the federal government should have been more proactive,” which is another way of saying that the feds should have been smart enough to know how incompetent Nagin and Blanco were and decided to do their jobs for them. That’s not how it works.

That leaves Bush’s Social Security reform attempt. It’s not an example of “incompetence.” The effort failed, but not because the reform plan didn’t have a reasonable design. It failed because it become obvious that no one on the left would accept even the slightest change to Social Security, despite its continued headlong rush towards fiscal calamity, and that too many Republicans were scared to touch a program which has become known as “the third rail” of politics.

And if we’re going to compare levels of “incompetence” based on the feelings of the American people, 40% approved of reforming Social Security in March 2005. By contrast, 69% of Americans polled by CNN’s Opinion Research organization in early September said that military intervention in Syria is not in America’s best interest (29% said it was).

Hunt’s best point concerns Team Obama’s insular nature: “When successful presidents reach low ebbs, they reach out. … That, however, isn’t the Obama way.” One reason it isn’t is that outsiders allowed in will see how incompetent the current crew is — and they’ll talk.

Cross-posted at


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