Thursday, October 8, 2009

What Were Obama's Advisors Thinking?

The news has been abuzz with Obama’s failure to bring the Olympics to Chicago. The President has correctly been questioned on at least two fronts. First, why did he spend so much political capital and energy focused on such an insignificant issue when there are so many more pressing issues? Second, does his inability to bring home the Olympics signify a damaging inability for the administration to influence foreign bodies? There is, in addition, at least one more question that has not been readily addressed: What were Obama’s advisors thinking?

Even before Rio was awarded the Olympics and Obama journeyed to Copenhagen, pundits were questioning the merits of his quest. No sitting American president had attempted such a feat. Not only did it entail political risk, for relatively little gain, there are far too many pressing issues for our President to spend time on such a trivial issue. Even the Huffington Post, darling of the left, criticized Obama’s thinking.
The GOP also got it right in knocking Obama for wasting time chasing Olympic windmills when his time should be spent on health care reform, fixing the economy, confronting the Iran nuclear threat, and doubling his efforts to wind down two crippling wars.

Second, his failure to convince the IOC weakened his credibility on the international stage. As Fox News reports, critics question whether a President who cannot deliver something as menial as the Olympics will be able to deliver a nuclear-free Iran or a globally responsible China. Such claims, however, are probably overblown. After all, the levels of intricacy of negotiations, not to mention government effort, are most certainly leagues apart when negotiating with Iran versus the IOC. That being said, the failure does reduce the aura that surrounds Obama. Furthermore, Obama has most likely lost a little credibility with those that analyze his every move. Such a snafu is not really indicative of his inability to be an international force (there are myriad of other indicators that serve this purpose); however, it may lead to more friction for his agenda down the line.

All this being said, one of the most interesting questions is: “What were his advisors thinking?”. Where was the wise advisor cautioning him against the vast risks and costs and the minimal benefits inherent in such a ploy? Why did no one stand up and tell him it was not worth it? Did his team foresee the GOP attacks? Or were his advisors simply unable to convince him otherwise?

Either way is problematic. Obama selected an award winning set of advisors to run his campaign. They ran a tight, effective campaign that will most likely be a guide for years of future campaigns to come. However, upon ascent to the White House his ability to find strong advisors seemingly has fizzled. Obama has gone through far too many scandalized czars to make anyone comfortable. From the socialist Van Jones to the animal-friendly Cass Sunstein, Obama has surrounded himself with incompetent and downright scary individuals.

The failure of his advising team is becoming increasingly distressing. Every modern president needs to rely heavily on his advisors. It is clear that Obama’s inexperience and his reliance on an out-of-touch, incapable team, is contributing to his mounting political failures. If Obama wants to succeed with his agenda and not solidify his place as the next Jimmy Carter, he must seriously reconsider who he surrounds himself with. After all, if his team could not foresee the political damage of going to Copenhagen, how are they going to handle real issues?

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