In Ron Suskind’s new book, President Obama, in an interview with the author, compares himself to Jimmy Carter. “Carter, Clinton and I all have sort of the disease of being policy wonks,” he says, according to excerpts. Karl Rove, a former senior adviser to Pres. George W. Bush, tells National Review Online that he is amused by Obama’s navel gazing.
“President Obama has himself backwards,” Rove says. “His problem is not that he was a policy wonk: it’s that he wasn’t. He refused to get his hands dirty writing a good stimulus bill, drafting bipartisan health-care reform, or negotiating with Republicans. He found it easier to tell them ‘I won, so get lost.’”
“The president is comfortable with a technocratic approach because he is an imperious, arrogant, know-it-all left wing technocrat who leaves the details to his congressional Democratic allies, like Congressman Dave Obey with the stimulus bill,” Rove adds. “He is content to check the box on his list of achievements and tour the country with his teleprompter giving speeches.”
As Mike Allen of Politico reports, Suskind’s book, Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President, “portrays Obama as uncertain and second-guessing himself.” In one passage, the president laments the “heavy” burden of the presidency. In another, he tells the author that it is “absolutely legitimate” for critics to complain about his “technocratic approach to government.”
But it is the Carter “disease” line that has political observers chuckling, since it reads like a line from a Republican strategist’s playbook. In Allen’s article, for example, former Newsweek editor Jon Meacham reacted to Obama’s Carter comparison much like Rove.
“For 30 years, fairly or no,” Meacham emails Allen, “‘Carter’ has been political and cultural shorthand for an ineffectual and uninspiring president who is captive to, rather than captain of, events. To compare oneself to President Carter is kind of like Nixon evoking Harding.”