Two years ago, a PhD student from Stanford University spoke with several former Obama White House staff members. Naturally, they were guarded in what they said but, every so often, a few of them made a revealing comment or two.
The student reported to me that lower level staffers followed the Obama Administration talking-points and blamed the Republicans for the legislative gridlock. But the higher-ups in the chain of command sometimes expressed a quiet frustration.
A woman said: “He (President Obama) created what was like a college dorm atmosphere in the West Wing. People were never certain what their job was because someone would change the priorities just like that.”
A man remarked: “There was a lot of brainstorming about things with no decisions made or plan of action, or timetable, and no results.”
Another man commented: “A president does not really have a fixed job description. He gets to make up his own, sort of. Obama could have used some help in deciding what he should concentrate on. Like one day he was wandering around and twice he poked his head into my office and asked what we were doing. Completely took us off track for several minutes each time.”
Yet another man: “The President seemed restless. If he didn’t have fixed appointments, some mostly ceremonial like greeting the Super Bowl winners or a movie star or veterans or something where he’d give an award and they’d take pictures, he didn’t know what to do and he interrupted others who were working.
A woman: “It was a little scary that the Commander-in-Chief wasn’t busy on some important work. He did love the speeches and that’s where he was great.”
A man observed: “We learned who had a direct line to the President. I tried to avoid them. They seemed to take pride in being able to hurt people with the President and (the First Lady). They didn’t want to hear bad news. I realized that they thought it was disloyal.”
Another woman said: “I think it drove the organized staff members crazy. It was government by B.S. sessions.”
A man: “One senior staff member told me that it became clear to him and others that the President didn’t read the briefing books and reports. He just learned by verbal reports and asking questions. Sometimes the questions were pretty far afield.”
Another man commented: “He didn’t do the homework that I guess I expected.”
A woman remarked: “He was out of the loop on things. Some people said, that way, he could shift the blame if something went wrong. It also meant that a lot didn’t get done.”
Many of these things could be said about any White House, any President, any White House staff. Make what you will of these comments and opinions.