Things Obama Probably Wishes He Hadn't Said

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You can tell how good I'll be at handling natural disasters by the quality of my campaign:

It's not mentioned much now, but in the late summer of 2008, a major hurricane, Gustav, was in the Gulf of Mexico and headed toward New Orleans, threatening a replay of the disastrous Katrina experience.  On September 1, 2008, Barack Obama, fresh from his Roman-colonnade speech on the final night of the Democratic convention in Denver, talked to CNN's Anderson Cooper about Gustav and the Gulf.  The question: As president, could he handle an emergency like that?  Obama pointed to the size of his campaign and its multi-million dollar budget as evidence of his executive abilities.  "Our ability to manage large systems and to execute, I think, has been made clear over the last couple of years," Obama said. That executive ability, he added, "indicates the degree to which we can provide the kinds of support and good service that the American people expect."

Let me reiterate that I don't blame Obama for failing to "do something" about the Gulf spill.  But his rhetoric opened him up for the expectation that nothing serious could go wrong during his presidency, because the main problem with the Bush presidency was the Competence Deficit.  I can't feel too bad for a man who was only too happy to exploit the public's tendency to assign responsibility for all major problems to the presidency--as long as he wasn't the president under whom things had gone wrong.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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