The MBA versus the MIA

The MBA versus the MIA



It’s easy to make fun of President Obama; the guy’s whole career since taking office bears no resemblance at all to the job he promised while running for election.  Even his own party has been murmuring that Obama will not get support for a 2012 run.  It is true that President Obama has plenty of time to turn this around, and it’s also true that just about every President gets hammered for mistakes, whether real or imagined.  But given the strong support Obama has always received from the media – shoot, most of the celebrity news types were shameless shills for Barack – even the mild criticisms coming his way indicate a much deeper discontent. 


Which reminds me of the way his predecessor was treated by the media, and how he chose to handle the matter.  Democrats tried their hardest to pin every conceivable kind of blame on W, and the shameless fount of rage against Bush spewed by the media for most of his two terms still echoes in many people’s minds.  Many people also noticed Bush’s grace in staying out of the spotlight for two years to avoid creating a rift between Republicans and Democrats in criticizing the new President, a courtesy Obama never once attempted to return. Instead, Obama blamed every hardship or mistake on the predecessor for well over a year into his Presidency, until his attacks on Bush became laughable.  As did the man.


During the present series of gaffes by Obama, I wondered more than once why Obama seemed to be handling things so poorly.  After all, there was not really anything he could have done to prevent the earthquake in Japan, there are few direct actions the U.S. can take militarily in Libya without risking costs in lives and unexpected consequences that would make the decision foolish, and the price of oil is seldom something a politician can control by himself.  What’s more, the U.S. has already sent the Navy to help Japan, dozens of fire departments and nuclear experts have already gone to Japan, so it’s not as if the U.S. is just standing around.  So why does Obama come across as a hapless neuf, who has no idea what to do?


For comparison, let’s go back to Bush.  Now, as much as I respect Bush and applaud many of his decisions and policies, even I have to admit that he made mistakes.  In general, though, Bush was the kind of leader who looked at a situation or a crisis,  decided what his plan would be, and then he put it into motion.  Sometimes the plan needed to be adjusted or changed as things went along, and some of his actions were criticized.  But there’s really no doubt that Bush was a man of determination.


That may seem a bit of an exaggeration.  The decision to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, for example, took quite a while after the 9/11 attacks, more than a year in fact, in stark contrast to the lie slung by liberals that Bush ‘rushed to war’.  Yet Bush clearly gave the impression that he knew what he planned to do, and that his actions were in line with that plan.  Personally, I think that’s what set off the liberals; they caught the tone of Bush’s determination, and mistook it for assumption.  What it actually was, was a leadership tactic.  When you have to wait, make sure people know why you are waiting, and that when you have your answer, actions will immediately follow the decision.


That comes from Bush’s MBA degree from the Harvard Business School, I think.  George W. Bush was the first President of the United States to have earned an MBA, and I think most people did not understand how that shapes your thinking.  MBAs are expected to be leaders, especially from schools like Harvard, and MBAs are trained to create a plan – a plan which develops over time and will change as conditions change (like supporting Petraeus’ Surge in Iraq), but which has a clear theme and goals.   Whether dealing with the economy, terrorism, or any other significant issue, President Bush made initial decisions quickly, and made clear that he had policies and plans for everything that came across his desk.


Barack Obama, on the other hand, tends to delay public remark and official reaction, sometimes to the point that his delay is remarked upon by other leaders, such as the Prime Minister of Japan or allies in the United Nations.  There is an unfortunate but apt word for this behavior when it begins to appear the President’s habit – dithering.  Presidents in the past tagged with the ‘dithering’ label included Jimmy Carter during the Iran Hostage Crisis, Lyndon Johnson during the early years of the Vietnam War, and Herbert Hoover after the 1929 Stock Market Crash and subsequent banking crisis.  As a result, a leader should be very careful to avoid acquiring such a label, though for President Obama the situation is one of getting himself unstuck from the tag.  Of course, Carter, LBJ, and Hoover also tried to get unstuck.  History provides a sad commentary on how those attempts worked out.




The Change which Hope has brought us
"Nothing anymore is feared and loathed so much as a baby"