Smells Like “Epistemic Closure” to Me

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 25, 2011

As with other posts of this kind, readers are invited to contemplate just how harsh the media would be if the following were said about George W. Bush:

Few perceptions were more widely shared or loudly voiced around Washington than that the Obamans were huffing their own fumes. “You know the cliché about our strengths being our weaknesses? It’s true for them as well,” says a top political strategist in a previous White House. “I think they felt like if they had listened to conventional wisdom in 2007, they never would have run. When they hear criticism, they say, ‘Been there, done that, we’re gonna stay the course.’ There’s almost a Zen-like quality about how they’ve been in their own universe and their own bubble.”

The more pointed variant of this critique was directed specifically at Obama. Unlike 42—who loved to stay up late, jabbing at the speed dial, spending countless hours gabbing with local pols and businesspeople around the country to gauge the political wind and weather—44 not only eschewed reaching out to governors, mayors, or CEOs, but he rarely consulted outside the tiny charmed circle surrounding him in the White House. “What you had was really three or four people running the entire government,” says the former White House strategist. “I thought they put a pretty good Cabinet together, but most of those guys might as well be in the witness-protection program.”

A funny line, no doubt, but an overstatement, surely? Well, maybe not. “I happen to know most of the Cabinet pretty well, and I get together with them individually for lunch,” says one of the most respected Democratic bigwigs in Washington. “I’ve had half a dozen Cabinet members say that in the first two years, they never had one call—not one call—from the president.”

And of course, there is arrogance:

Emanuel’s ad-hocracy, meanwhile, didn’t faze Obama. The president’s friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett sometimes pointed out that not only had he never managed an operation, he’d never really had a nine-to-five job in his life. Obama didn’t know what he didn’t know, yet his self-confidence was so stratospheric that once, in the context of thinking about Emanuel’s replacement, he remarked in all seriousness, “You know, I’d make a good chief of staff.”

Those overhearing the comment somehow managed to suppress their laughter.

And some people wonder why a “shellacking” occurred last November.

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