When I heard that the President’s first reaction to the Fort Hood terrorist attack was to go quickly through the prepared version of his speech and then talk about the attack, I shrugged. I knew that we weren’t getting somebody who could connect with the American people on a fundamental level (I suspect that it was a large part of his novelty appeal, after sixteen years of Presidents who could and did), and Glenn Reynolds was right: the President defaults to academic mode*. I’m sure that it seemed like a good idea at the time.
When I skimmed over the revelation that the President had mixed up the Medal of Honor with the Medal of Freedom, I again shrugged, although less readily. He’s a Democratic politician, I thought. Outside specific geographic areas they simply can’t be expected to remember details like that.
But now I hear that he had gotten the medal wrong of somebody he had given the medal to himself not three months earlier, I cringed. This is precisely the sort of error that a well-trained and well-organized Presidential staff is expected to routinely avert; the fact that it slipped through suggests that this administration has neither. And that is the fault of the Chief of Staff.
I want to make this point clear: yes, the White House staff is supposed to be better at this. They are supposed to be competent. They are not. And I am not directly blaming the President for their incompetence: he had a reasonable expectation that the person that he has delegated to ensure their competence would do his job. That COS Emanuel turned out to be this sloppy at his administrative duties is honestly a surprise to everybody. But the man needs to go, and be replaced with someone with the right skill set.
*I know that his supporters are fond of thinking of the President as being an avatar of either Kennedy or FDR, but in reality he’s much closer to Woodrow Wilson. And I’m not going to pretend that this is a compliment.