Edward Luce Says the Czar Needs New Cossacks: What Is Barack Obama Thinking Department?

Ed Luce:

Mr President, it’s time to panic: A few weeks ago, James Carville… had a choice word of advice for Barack Obama: “panic”. The president was heading to disaster in 2012 with the same crew of advisers that had led him up this blind alley. “Mr President, your hinge of fate must turn,” Mr Carville said. “This may be news to you but things are not going well.” Thus, Mr Obama should “fire a lot of people” and set a new course…. In his reluctance to change his kitchen cabinet, Mr Obama is an exception – indeed, his campaign inner circle is actually strengthening its grip on the White House. The group, which most prominently includes Valerie Jarrett, the longstanding Chicago friend and mentor to the Obamas; David Plouffe, the 2008 campaign manager; and David Axelrod, who is now shepherding Mr Obama’s re-election campaign from Chicago, last week clipped the wings of Bill Daley, the president’s hapless chief of staff….

Ever hopeful that the president will reclaim what they see as his true liberal mantle, disillusioned supporters put a different gloss on last week’s reshuffle – as the welcome conclusion to a year of fruitless attempts at bipartisanship. A former executive at JPMorgan, Mr Daley was appointed in the wake of the Democratic party’s “shellacking” in last year’s congressional elections – the heaviest midterm defeat in 70 years. His job was to build bridges with the newly victorious Republicans and to mollify an alienated business community. Neither has gone well. The president’s deepest humiliation came in the wake of the debt ceiling debacle in September…. As for Mr Daley’s charm offensive with business leaders, he did not even succeed with his friend Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan on whose board he had served….

Mr Obama’s campaign team has rejected every transplant he has tried – even ones from Chicago, such as Mr Daley and Rahm Emanuel, his predecessor…. The plain fact is that Mr Obama prefers to campaign than govern. With the entrenched inner circle that he has, no one should be surprised by this. Whether or not Mr Obama can eke out a victory next year, it would be optimistic to expect things to change radically in a second term.

From my perspective, it is fine--not optimal, but fine--that Barack Obama is not a liberal. Somebody pursuing effective technocratic centrist policies that work would be an enormous asset to the world right now.

The fear of all of us is that Obama is not just not a liberal, but that he is not a technocrat--and not a particularly good manager either. If you judge policies not by whether they work but by whether centrist worshippers of bipartisanship approve of them, don't be surprised to find yourself up to your neck...