Frustration with President Obama doesn't mean he's incompetent

Taegan Goddard
The Week

George W. Bush's legacy fits the definition much better

A new Pew Research survey finds that when asked for one-word descriptions of President Obama and former president George W. Bush, the word incompetent seems to resonate loudly with many Americans. Near equal numbers chose the word as the best description of the two men.

Lloyd Green suggests it’s not a coincidence because the signature policies of both -- bringing democracy to the Middle East for Bush and universal health care for Obama -- have run aground.

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Writes Green: "Bush’s incompetence was born of excess idealism. Rather than seeing a region mired in muck, he envisioned a world created anew and ignored the question of what happens the day after? As for Obama, he has treated legislative victory as an end in itself, while ignoring the reality of actual implementation."

He notes the events of the last week -- a military coup in Egypt and the announcement of a delay in implementing the employer mandate in Obamacare -- provided justification for Americans rallying around the word incompetent to describe their presidents.

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"If Americans needed any further evidence that the respective signature ‘achievements’ of Bush and Obama were failures wrapped in untidy and costly bows, there they were in plain sight."

But while neither man looks headed for a place on Mount Rushmore anytime soon, it seems unfair to call them both incompetent.

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After all, Bush left behind a military scrambling to deal with two wars launched without an exit strategy. The economy spiraled in a deep recession we’re still recovering from five years later. And he thrust his own Republican party into an ideological civil war that has left Congress in a state of total gridlock.

Obama has spent most of his presidency dealing with the messes Bush left behind.

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In fact, the same Pew Research poll finds views of Obama today are actually quite different from those of George W. Bush at about this point in his second term. Most noticeably is that Obama’s job approval rating is a net positive while Bush’s was a net negative.

So while neither man has necessarily lived up to his promise, it's a big leap to say they're both incompetent.

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