No Meeting of Minds

One of the things that I think that Ross Douthat is missing in his op-ed in the New York Times in backhanded defense of President Obama is that many Democrats expect very different things from presidents than Republicans do. I think it’s only a slight exaggeration that lots of Democrats imagine the president wielding the reins of government single-handedly, writing every speech, managing every department, writing every piece of legislation, shepherding it through the Congress, and so on. And Democratic presidents have frequently abetted that view. Jimmy Carter was a notorious micromanager. Bill Clinton, famously a “policy wonk”, was only a bit behind him in that regard.

Strong managers don’t micromanage. They hire good people and then trust them to do their jobs. Ike was the quintessential strong manager. When people complained about his playing golf all the time it wasn’t just a complaint that Eisenhower was lazy, it was a disagreement about what presidents do and that disagreement continues.

Although there’s been plenty of complaints that President Obama is a micromanager, particularly from the Wall Street Journal, I don’t see it. Quite to the contrary I think he’s frequently left the details to others to his detriment.

I can’t help but think that, looking back, we’ll see President Obama as Reaganesque in many ways, among them that he was at his best when painting the broad, inspiring picture.

That will disappoint any Democrats looking for an all-powerful, all-knowing, omni-competent president. But they were setting themselves up for disappointment from the start.

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