One of the most common criticisms of the Obama administration you’ll hear in Washington is that the White House doesn’t do much planning, that they just are not fully engaged on a lot of issues. Stuff just sort of happens. I mostly follow national security issues, but whether it is the botched plans to close Guantanamo, or the well-meaning but bumbled effort to send condolence letters to troops who commit suicide, time and time again stuff just sort of happens at — or to — the White House. The right people outside the building don’t get a heads up. Things get announced or ignored in a fashion that strikes outsiders as arbitrary, at best. Seemingly important things get short shrift, or are ignored.
Part of it is that there may never have been a White House that inherited a crap sandwich — from terrorism, to the economy, to wars, to debt, to the Tea Party — quite like this one. They are running around with their hair on fire for good reason, and they simply have to shoot the closest rattlesnake. I also recognize I’m probably going to get a call here from the White House saying how unfair this post is. But I hear it all the time.
An editorial in the Wall Street Journal today captures this motif rather accurately, in this case, about the White House basically ignoring Iraq and, by default, handing influence to the Iranians. The Study of War’s Marisa Cochrane Sullivan writes:
I recently returned from three weeks in that country, where I had dozens of meetings with Iraqi officials from across the political spectrum. They agreed on very little, except that the Obama administration is dangerously disengaged from the situation in their country.
It’s worth a read, and not just because it is about Iraq. There are a lot of people in Washington who think the White House is dangerously disengaged on a lot of issues — until the issue becomes the closest rattlesnake. It always takes a long time for us in the press to really figure out a White House. Maybe this is the flaw in Obama’s DNA. Or Maybe even a perfect administration would be overwhelmed with this crap sandwich.