- (Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing)
President Barack Obama's failures to adequately address his administration's biggest challenges demonstrates that he does not have the competence to be an effective president, some liberals and Democrats have begun to claim.
CNN's John King said Sunday that Democrats have been telling him privately that Obama is "detached, flat-footed, even incompetent," he "doesn't want to take command, doesn't want to act fast," and "this White House doesn't appear to have its hand on the lever [of government]."
And on Tuesday, liberal National Journal columnist Ron Fournier accused Obama of "intellectual dishonesty" for blaming his failures on Republicans.
"The candidate of unbridled optimism in 2008 is now cynical, bowed, and nearly beaten - a leader whose excuse for failure amounts to, I can't lead because Republicans won't let me," he wrote.
His conclusions did not come from speaking to conservatives he added, but to Democrats over the last 17 months.
The VA scandal is the most recent to shine a spotlight on Obama's competence. When he was a senator and presidential candidate, Obama argued that the VA had systemic problems that needed to be fixed. Now, though, Obama said he needs to wait on a study before he decides whether the problems at the VA are systemic.
He promised to fix those problems in the first year of his presidency. Plus, he implemented his proposed solution - he increased funding from just under $100 billion to nearly $164 billion. This is why, even though the problems at the VA predate the Obama presidency, they reflect poorly on Obama's competence.
Either the problem is structural and the system needs reform, in which case Obama is at fault for not recognizing and implementing reforms, or the problem is managerial, in which case Obama is at fault for not appointing and overseeing effective management.
Criticizing a president of one's own party in a second term is not unusual. Since Obama will not run for reelection again, Democrats need not fear that their words will be used against them in a Republican campaign ad.
President George W. Bush also faced accusations of incompetence at the same stage in his presidency. Googling the phrase "Bush incompetent" for the year 2006 turns up many examples, some of them from Republicans. The day before election day that year, for example, Vanity Fair published an article in which several conservatives claimed that Bush was incompetent in how he handled the aftermath of the Iraq War.
In the final years of the Obama presidency the Democrats who express their doubts privately about Obama's competence may become more vocal as they seek to detach their own reputation from that of Obama's failures.