Wash. Post Op-Ed: Obama Administration Needs Shake-Up

Monday, 14 Jul 2014 02:57 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The Obama administration seems "besieged and befuddled" and it could be time for a shake-up among his second-term staff, an opinion piece in The Washington Post asserts.

President Barack Obama's second-term staff "was always going to be a risk," writes Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt. Obama abandoned his first term team, many of whom were rivals, for loyalists in his second term, as he felt assured that his second four years in office would run more smoothly.

As a result, Obama is in danger of "cementing an image of haplessness that would be hard to undo," said Hiatt.

Matters were different in the first term, when Obama had people around him who would debate each other and the issues, including Hillary Clinton at State, Bob Gates at the Pentagon, and Leon Panetta and David Petraeus at CIA.

"Some performed better than others, but together they guaranteed the White House would not be an echo chamber for the president’s views," said Hiatt. "Many of their places have been taken by people who are no less honorable or hard-working but for whom loyalty to the president may come first and who were chosen in part for seeing things as he does."

Already in the president's second term, his administration has been caught by surprise when Russian President Vladimir Putin took action against Ukraine and by the emergence of the Islamic State and its takeover of Iraq, and Obama seems "uncertain how to respond," said Hiatt. In addition, the United States' allies and foes seem to be comfortable disrespecting the country and its representatives.

Journalists were sentenced to prison in Egypt just after Secretary of State John Kerry left the country, and days after Obama visited the Philippines to support rule of law in the South China Sea, China rammed two Vietnamese ships with a massive oil rig it towed into waters claimed by Vietnam.

Germans are also angry over allegations the United States spied on it, and Israel and Hamas are heading toward war, said Hiatt, just two more of the international issues popping up.

And here in the United States, the administration is facing the challenge of the thousands of Central American children entering the country at its southern border.

"In the most elementary sort of staffing snafu, the president found himself needlessly on the defensive during a trip to Texas because he refused to visit the border," said Hiatt.

The White House message varies by the day, and "there seems to be no strategy to propel objectives the White House had set forth as fundamental: immigration reform, trade deals with Asia and Europe, investment in education and infrastructure," said Hiatt.

Not all of the disappointments can be blamed on staffing, but Obama should ask if his team is making the best of the circumstances it can't control, Hiatt said.

"More than half of his second term stretches before him," he wrote. "Some things — notably the economy — are looking hopeful. It’s too soon, and it would be too dangerous for the country, to settle for the current state of affairs."

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