Performance Review


A week from now, Americans will select either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney as our national president for the next four years. Although there's always partisanship aplenty at this point in the American political cycle, and although long-term I have decided to work for the principles of liberty through the Republican party, political moderates (and I consider myself a moderate libertarian) probably find it most helpful to look at the selection of the president more matter-of-factly: is one of the candidates clearly more or less qualified to be hired for the job?

As with any hiring decision, those doing the hiring need to understand the job description and to learn everthing job-relevant about the applicants. Although the U.S. Constitution doesn't define the job of the president in great detail, Article II does capture the essence: the president shall preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution; function as the chief executive of the federal government and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces; make treaties; nominate ambassadors, judges, and other officers; report to the Congress regarding the state of the union; recommend necessary and expedient measures for consideration by the Congress; and faithfully execute the laws of the land.

Certainly the role of the president has expanded over time, but the core remains being a kind of "CEO" for the national government (including the armed forces), within the bounds set by the Constitution. Any incumbent who doesn't do a good job as president deserves to be dismissed from service by the people; any candidate who lacks executive experience, who lacks transparency, or who is actively disrepectful toward constitutional principles also does not deserve the job. It's as simple as that.

Barack Obama was elected after eight years of a presidency that cannot be considered one of the most successful in American history. I was no fan of George W. Bush, whose forays into military interventionism abroad and economic interventionism at home had questionable intentions and even worse results, and whose policies contravened constitutional principles of limited government and individual liberty at almost every turn. Yet even by the low standards of the Bush administration, the Obama administration has been an unmitigated disaster.

The list of Obama's failures is long and my time is short, so I won't enumerate them all here (although as a progressive libertarian I might have hoped that he'd have done something about, say, ending the war on drugs or repealing the PATRIOT Act instead of doubling down on such measures). However, all of Obama's failings come together as a perfect storm in the Benghazi debacle: Obama showed himself to be feckless as commander-in-chief (ignoring requests for protection of an American embassy, resulting in the death of our ambassador to Libya), mendacious as chief executive (among other things, directing his minions to misrepresent the Benghazi events and their causes), secretive about disclosure of what happened (as Bob Woodward noted recently, a truly independent investigation is required here), and contemptuously authoritarian regarding the fundamental rights of American citizens (dragging an American in for questioning by the police because he dared to post a video on the Internet that was critical of Islam -- which it turns out was utterly unrelated to the terrorist attack in Benghazi).

Feckless, mendacious, secretive, and authoritarian: that's a bad combination in any CEO, but especially so in the most powerful person on the planet.

Barack Obama's election to president was of historic significance. His performance as chief executive has been execrable. He is asking for his contract to be extended for another four year; instead of granting such an extension, it's altogether appropriate for the shareholders to say no.

Or, as a roadside sign I saw this morning so succintly put it: Fire Obama.

Peter Saint-Andre > Journal