Every person, newscaster and commentator always prefaces any, even the mildest criticism, of President Obama's policies with some statement about how dazzlingly brilliant the man is. Liberals, conservatives, independents — it never changes. Why is this? And most important of all, is it true?
What and where is the proof that Obama is such a sharp fellow? The recorded evidence is unavailable since his academic records, and test scores from three universities are sealed at his demand. Sure, he graduated from Harvard, but so did George Bush, who earned an MBA but is still pilloried by some as dumber than dirt.
We shall have to examine Obama's performance and make our own assumptions based on observations.
Obama selected advisers and Cabinet heads who have basically no experience in the private sector. He relies heavily on them to tell him what to do about the sick economy. Their knee-jerk responses are Keynesian (borrow and spend), based on a dubious theory popular 70 years ago, and proved unworkable in the past.
They sold us the stimulus ("porkulus") package of spending.The result? Rising unemployment and falling home sales prove that "recovery summer" is going down the tube without touching the sides. The president retains his economic Rasputins. Is loyalty to failure a sign of a great mind?
Obama farmed out the stimulus, omnibus budget, financial reform, cap-and-tax and health care bills to Congress — allowing it free rein. He did not exercise leadership and instead abdicated to the whims of Nancy Pelosi, David Obey, Harry Reid and Chris Dodd.
Trillions are borrowed and spent on the public sector while real jobs evaporate. Banks invest in bonds instead of businesses. Impending and threatened mandates, regulation and tax increases choke off entrepreneurial ambitions. Does this activity indicate a high level of intelligence, or just managerial ineptitude?
The president is unable to string a cogent sentence together without a pair of Teleprompters working perfectly. He can deliver a mesmerizing speech but can't even remember who is standing beside him when the tape runs off the tracks. His most often used extemporaneous word is "um."
This may be a clue as to why he has granted fewer press conferences than any president in memory. Can such performances be equated to "brilliance"? Not in my book.
Stepping in the political equivalent of a doggie dumpling seems to bring out the worst in Obama. Why and how could he pop off with everything from "The Cambridge Police acted stupidly" to flip-flops on the New York mosque issue, and everything in between? His inane mumblings about the skivvy shorts bomber, the public trial of the 9/11 plotters, the fanatic major who gunned down 13 soldiers, the Arizona immigration law and "saving or creating" jobs belies any vast reservoir of intelligence.
Sharp presidents do not dive into lose/lose situations with such gusto.
How is Obama's foreign policy working out? The U.S. needs strong allies to defeat monstrous enemies. Dissing the British, scolding Israel, canceling the missile shield in Eastern Europe and groveling to foreign royalty do not bode well. Our enemies, from Iran to Venezuela, smell weakness and timidity. Ignoring cold reality and dreaming that personal charisma is the solution to international tensions is probably on the daft side of the intelligence continuum.
The "4 million green jobs" mantra espoused by the president is a canard when examined closely. Renewable energy technology exists only due to huge government subsidies. Ethanol is inefficient, raising the prices of gasoline and corn. Wind farms produce intermittent power that flummoxes the grid and requires conventional power plants to run continuously as backup. The net carbon reduction is miniscule.
Both schemes are massive misallocations of resources better used elsewhere. An astute president would inform himself on both sides of the issue rather than blatantly parrot a load of poppycock from the Van Jones crowd.
A Republican president who parties far more than he works would be trashed by every media outlet in the land. But Obama is a Democrat who enjoys the media's deep support. He escapes any serious questions about his busy golf schedule, multiple vacations, endless fundraising and campaigning, constant banquets and concerts in the White House, and his obvious detachment from the people he supposedly leads.
He appears more of a dilettante than a leader. A smart fellow would move to de-emphasize his privileged lifestyle instead of flaunting it in front of a nation mired in a recession.
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, maybe Obama is smart. Then again, Jimmy Carter was intelligent but proved to be the worst president of our lifetimes — up to now.
• Howard, a Redmond, Wash.-based real estate developer, appeared on this page Aug. 20 with an "Open Letter To President Obama."