I will leave it to others to talk about the causes and effects of the miraculous election for the bluest of blue Senate seats. I'd rather reflect on the fact that governing is difficult, and competence cannot be assumed.
Pundits debate about the fact that people like Obama as a person, but resent that that he is governing as a liberal in a center-right country. No doubt, but a second big source of "buyers' remorse" may well be related to competence. Where to start?
People who have led change in large institutions would tell you that you need to do the following: create a sense of urgency; create a vision for the future; lay out a set of steps to get there; hire key, committed people; establish a manageable financial plan; set up measurements, and a feedback mechanism (for bad news as well as good); focus on a small set of priorities. So, how are Barack and his folks doing?
Perhaps the first real clue - aside from a total lack of managerial experience - was in the personnel field. Getting started was slow, to the extent that the administration has not yet filled many key positions, including the director of the Transport Security Administration. Vetting failed to identify tax cheats (Tim Geithner and at last five others), self-proclaimed communist revolutionaries (Van Jones); vocal Mao admirers (Anita Dunn), and a gay pedophile "safe school czar" (Kevin Jennings). Absent? -anybody with business experience.
Second came a style of deferring to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and their subordinates for the crafting of key legislation - the pork-laden stimulus plan; cap and trade; financial regulation; and finally health care reform. It should be painfully clear to all but Keith Olberman and Air America that this process has resulted in double-ugly legislation, highly visible corruption, and in three of these four, no progress despite overwhelming congressional majorities.
Obama's indecisiveness has come to the fore on national security where he dithered for three months on an Afghanistan decision, is clueless about closing Guantanamo (close it and move the prisoners to Illinois if you must), and (if you can believe Attorney General Holder) he has totally deferred on the decision to try terrorists in civilian courts.
Health care speaks for itself. Harry Reid lacks Pelosi's leadership skills (and procedural rules), and Obama had to share with him a highly public series of terrible compromises and bribes. A first principle of marketing is that it is easier to ask the customers what they want and figure out how to deliver it, than to talk them into buying what you want to sell. The current conventional Democratic wisdom is that any bill, even if forced against the will of the public, is better than nothing.
And, more importantly, who believes that Obama has spent his first year focusing on the right things when we have 10% unemployment, still-anemic credit markets, and a deficit equal to 10 % of the Gross Domestic Product?
So, what is the public's confidence that Obama will suddenly understand the requirements for private sector job creation and develop the backbone to rein in trillion dollar deficits? We could be surprised, but don't bet on it.
This week's You Tube is from a Senate hearing on the handling of the Christmas bomber. Strikingly, neither the director of National Intelligence, the director of the FBI, nor the Secretary of Homeland Security was consulted on the decision to assign a lawyer and to try the case in civilian court, and the the newly-constituted High Value Detainee Interrogation Group was not utilized. Incidentally, the only place that I could find a video of the hearing was on Fox.
The Massachusetts election helped get me reacquainted with several good research sites:
Sources of political funding - OpenSecrets.Org.
Betting on political outcomes (and much more) - Intrade.com
bill bowen - 1/22/10