What will Captain Queeg President Obama do when the typhoon hits?

| February 15 2013
Christopher Cook

Back in January, Australian Hal Colebatch wrote His Queeg Moment about President Obama. It is an accurate metaphor for President Obama, at least on the strict merits of the case he is making. What I am interested in, however, is what happens when the typhoon hits.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Read Colebatch’s piece, and then return for the question at hand. It begins . . .

In Herman Wouk’s classic World War II novel, The Caine Mutiny, there is a moment when a group of the ship’s officers are getting away from the increasingly eccentric Captain Queeq by relaxing ashore.

Suddenly the malcontent Lieutenant Keefer asks the others: “Does it occur to you that Captain Queeg may be insane?

In fact Queeg is not insane, at least not at that time. He is simply grappling, more and more disastrously, with a job too big for him. Come the crisis of a typhoon, he becomes paralyzed and nearly sinks the ship by failing to give the obvious orders. At the subsequent court-martial he appears quite normal until he breaks down under the pressure of cross-examination. Before this, the officers have searched the regulations for guidance, but the regulations refer only to a captain who is clearly and unmistakably insane, not one who is merely guilty of eccentricity and bad judgment. At a lower level of responsibility, Queeg might have performed adequately, but with Keefer’s question, the remaining respect for Queeg’s office has gone.

Obama’s second inauguration speech may be his Queeg moment — an undeniable demonstration that, in an emergency, he is incapable of grappling with reality. For all his unceasing invocation of the word “change,” the outstanding thing about Obama has been his apparent inability to react, even to an imminent crisis. Like Queeg, he stands frozen on the bridge as the waves grow higher, or obsesses over issues like homosexuals and women in the military as the typhoon rises.

Faced with the worst looming fiscal cliff-fall in world history Obama, like Queeg in the typhoon, has done nothing at all, but has, increasingly, resorted to meaningless words. His pseudo-Keynesian fiscal notions and a mantra-like repetition of old and failed ideas, suggest a serious lack on mental versatility.

Economics is not an exact science, but some of its rules are now well-known, and one is that a government cannot spend its way out of a recession.

Yet Obama does not project any sense of urgency, merely a smug, radiating sense of his own greatness. The one fiscal measure to which he seems committed — taxing the rich — is infantile stuff, like Queeg’s obsession with who ate the wardroom strawberries.

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Colebatch is spot on in his assessment. Obama is in way over his head. He has political skills. He has a good voice. But beyond that, he is out of his depth. Observing over the last few years, it even seems clear that Obama knows this is true. He turns over important decisions to others. He punts at moments when America is looking for him to carry the ball down field. And, in the face of events that keep changing and worsening, he keeps sounding the same ineffectual, ideological, nakedly partisan notes he’s been singing from the start. He does not adjust. He does not rise to meet challenges. Those addled by his manufactured persona are blind to the truth that the rest of us see so clearly—he is actually a small man in shoes much too big for him.

But none of that matters nearly so much as this: What happens when the typhoon really hits?

So far, Obama has been able to convince large numbers of people that he is not only competent, but that he is our political savior—and that it is the Republicans who stand in the way of the salvation that only he, but for their obstruction, can bring us. (It’s nonsense, of course: The Democrats had the whole of elected government for his first two years, and now they have two thirds of it.) Moreover, Obama has a mainstream press that either believes his schtick, or at least is willing to cover for him out of shameless partisanship.

When the economic typhoon really starts slamming our ship abeam, Obama and his allies will do all they can to blame capitalism, blame the Republicans, blame the rich, and blame all people whose individuality stands in the way of what they deem to be the “collective good.”

The question on the table is, Will the American people fall for it, or will they finally mutiny?

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