And now the mild sympathy for President Obama: one of the most difficult tasks in life is coming to terms with a really awful failure of one's own making. And while you can spread blame around — Shinseki, Kathleen Sebelius, Hillary Clinton -- ultimately the buck stops with him; he's the one who put all of those folks in that position.
If Obama had come out Friday afternoon and declared he felt betrayed by Eric Shinseki, that he had trusted him to keep a close eye on his department, and that he never imagined such a distinguished veteran would prove so ineffective at combatting a culture of complacency and unaccountability . . . those of us who aren't so enamored with him could at least believe the president was learning some hard truths about the presidency. Bureaucracies always tell you that they're making progress. They'll always spotlight circumstances of seeming or even genuine improvement, and downplay or hide inexcusable failures. They'll never tell you that they've screwed up royally, with catastrophic consequences, until it's on the front page.
If you were Obama, wouldn't you be furious with Shinseki? Would you be mad at yourself? Mad at Sebelius? Wouldn't failures this big prompt you to rethink how you approach these types of challenges?
My suspicion — and fear — is that Obama can't do that. He can't have an honest reckoning of his increasingly disastrous presidency because it would shake the foundation of his life's work. It would mean his critics were largely right all along.I'm angry enough with the President to enjoy reading this, but it also makes me thoughtful about how I've come to terms with really awful failures of my own making. Shame has a tendency to make me run and hide, too, rather than own up, improve, and keep at the job. Not all failures make me react that way, but really shameful ones do.