Incompetence catches Obama

Make it official: Everything Barack Obama touches turns to mush. Not because he wants to screw up everything, but because he's simply in over his head as president of the United States.

He is the quintessential wrong guy at the wrong time, and the events of last week provided another exclamation point to that sentence.

Rolling Stone magazine published a story revealing the inner workings of Obama's hand-picked general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal. And those inner workings were not pretty. McChrystal and his HQ advisers were disrespectful in the extreme to just about everyone -- our allies (expletive-gay French), Obama (disengaged), Vice President Joe Biden (you mean Bite Me?), Sen. John McCain (not helpful).

Team McChrystal as portrayed in the article also exhibited a brand of immaturity that even the staunchest of McChrystal supporters could defend only as "locker-room talk." That's putting it mildly. Most would call the Rolling Stone account of those in charge of our war in Afghanistan as borderline scary -- one-third frat house, one-third personality cult worship and one-third "Apocalypse Now."

When the piece hit the stands, the president summoned McChrystal to the White House. The general resigned and was replaced. The president was right to do so. But don't mistake that for leadership in what otherwise remains a debacle that exposes once again the failure of this president to perform the big tasks the American people need him to do -- in this case, the prosecution of the war on terror.

Let's hit a few of the other low points.

The economy. We're all painfully aware of the president's performance here. He's made the deficit spending of the last few George W. Bush years look downright amateurish. He's added $2 trillion to the national debt, presided over a period of dreadful unemployment and a housing crisis of epic proportions with no end in sight.

When the nation needed a leader in the wake of the Gulf oil spill, President Obama failed to rise to the occasion. He said he cared deeply when the cameras were rolling, but almost immediately after jetting away from the misery in the Gulf, our president could be seen golfing, vacationing and entertaining at the White House, sending a decidedly mixed signal.

In a story on a Wall Street Journal poll that showed Americans are less confident in the president's leadership than at any point in his presidency, reporters interviewed James Ciarmataro, a 23-year-old stay-at-home dad from Macomb, Mich.

Ciarmataro put it just right: He said it was difficult to relate to Obama, because the president is "eating steak dinners at the White House and playing golf" while the country is suffering.

In other words, leadership can't be faked for long.

If the Gulf doesn't prove it for you, then consider the president's first official act as president -- the signing of an executive order to close the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay.

With the stroke of a pen, he looked the part of a leader, fulfilling a campaign promise. But now, some 17 months later, Gitmo remains open. Why? Because leadership is more than looking the part. It's hard work. It's resolve. It's sacrifice. It is making things happen.

As we now find, looking the part on economic recovery, Gulf oil spill relief or even something as relatively simple as closing one detention facility doesn't actually fix the economy, plug the hole or solve the sticky problem of indefinite detention of enemy combatants in the war on terror.

President Obama is long on talking about these things but short on the skills to get them done.

Now, last week, we find these same flaws are in play with the lives of our soldiers in the war in Afghanistan. The general he chose to execute his strategy required removal not because the president was engaged enough to see it coming, but because of a Rolling Stone article.

It's one thing to take decisive action when publicly humiliated. But it's quite another to effectively prosecute a war.

That takes leadership, which sadly remains a quality we've not seen from this president yet.

Me and my prostate

I did, indeed, part ways with my cancerous prostate earlier this month, and all of the cancer went with the prostate, not with me. I thank God for that excellent outcome and all of you who wished me well and offered encouragement during surgery and recovery. I am indebted to you for your kindness. Thank you.

Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@ is publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.