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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 27, 2014 / 27 Iyar, 5774

The vaunted 'competence' of Barack Obama

By Jeff Jacoby




JewishWorldReview.com | As a candidate for president in 1988, Michael Dukakis famously proclaimed: “This election is not about ideology; it’s about competence.”

It wasn’t a winning argument. Dukakis ran as the architect of the so-called “Massachusetts Miracle,” the state’s mid-1980s economic boom. But the miracle was turning into a fiscal meltdown, and, as it did, Dukakis’s once-commanding lead went down the drain. On Election Day, he lost to George H. W. Bush in a 40-state landslide.

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Dukakis played down ideology because he didn’t want to be tagged as a liberal, and he played up competence because that’s what all candidates do. Twenty years later, Barack Obama did the same thing, but with far greater success. Running to succeed the deeply polarizing George W. Bush, Obama held himself out not just as a leader who would never “pit red America against blue America,” but as a natural-born manager whose hallmark was smarts and competence.

Voters — encouraged by newspaper endorsements that saw in Obama’s campaign “a marvel of sound management” (The Boston Globe) and backed him because he “offered more competence than drama” (Los Angeles Times) — ate it up. An astonishing 76 percent of respondents in a CNN/ORC poll shortly after the 2008 election agreed that Obama could “manage the government effectively.”

Five years of Obama’s presidency have certainly shattered that delusion.

The scandal now boiling over at the Veterans Administration, where at least 40 patients have died while numerous VA hospitals reportedly falsified data to hide unconscionable delays in medical care, is only the latest in a long series of government shambles under a president whose managerial prowess turned out to be a mirage.

Abuses at the VA have been a problem for years. As a candidate in 2007, Obama claimed that 400,000 veterans were “stuck on a waiting list,” and he promised “a new sense of urgency” to “make sure that our disabled vets receive the benefits they deserve.” But that urgency never materialized. In a letter to Obama a year ago, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee detailed some of the “serious and significant patient care issues” in the VA system, imploring him to address the worsening problems before more veterans died. Yet nothing happened. The president showed no interest in the matter, and seemed to have no grasp of the scandal’s magnitude, until he learned about it on the news.

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Obama came to the White House with a carefully cultivated image for almost preternatural competence — an image no one esteemed more highly than he did. “I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters,” he had told his campaign staff. “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that . . . I’m a better political director than my political director.”

He may still believe it, but most Americans no longer do. When respondents in a CNN/ORC poll this spring were asked once again about the president’s ability to “manage the government effectively,” a solid majority — 57 percent — said that description does not apply to Obama. Other surveys get similar results. In four Quinnipiac University polls taken since November 2013, respondents have been asked: “Do you think that in general the Obama administration has been competent in running the government?” Each time, a majority has said no. Asked whether the president is “paying attention to what his administration is doing,” only 45 percent say he is. None of those polls reflects recent coverage of the VA; presumably the numbers would be even harsher if they did.

Every presidency has its scandals and messes. George W. Bush’s included the Hurricane Katrina aftermath, the calamitous post-Saddam administration of Iraq, and the misbegotten policies that stoked the subprime mortgage crisis. But Obama went out of his way to contrast himself with the supposedly bumbling and hapless Bush. He deliberately put effectiveness and smart governance at the very core of what Americans could expect if they elected him.

It hasn’t worked out that way, or even come close. The Obama administration hasn’t been distinguished by cool, cerebral, sure-footed professionalism, but by something closer to amateur hour. From the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act to the bloody aftermath of the intervention in Libya, from enabling political witch-hunts at the IRS to being repeatedly outmaneuvered by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, from swelling the debt he was going to reduce to embittering the politics he promised to detoxify, Obama’s performance has been a lurching series of screw-ups and disappointments.

The 44th president — who once said that his accomplishments could compare favorably with those of any of his predecessors with the “possible exceptions” of Lyndon Johnson, FDR, and Abraham Lincoln — has always had a huge opinion of his executive gifts. The American people no longer share it. As a political creature, Obama’s talents are undeniable. When it comes to competent governance, they turned out to be anything but.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist.

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