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April 04, 2012

"Unexpectedly!":What Happens When You "Don't Spend a Lot of Time Planning for Contingencies

One of the more amusing political memes we've heard is Glenn Reynolds' "Unexpectedly!" list, in which the liberal-leaning press are always gobsmacked when real world outcomes don't conform to their rose colored world view.

For conservatives, "Unexpectedly" is the comedy gift that keeps on giving. No matter how many times our progressive Brethren in Christ are sandbagged by the gap between the-world-as-they-want-it-to-be and the-world-as-it-is, it's still funny.

Wavering Obama voters have noticed the same phenomenon, though they have a more charitable explanation: Obama is "naive":

Did the constitutional law lecturer who pushed the bill through Congress and signed it into law naively ignore the question of whether the federal government had the authority to require citizens to purchase health insurance?

The naive narrative, in a nutshell:

Monday I spoke to a smart political mind who had been watching focus groups of wavering Obama voters in swing states, and he said that one word that those voters kept coming back to, again and again, was “naïve.” (The term was to describe the president, not themselves.) Those who voted for Obama won’t call him stupid, and certainly don’t accept that he’s evil. But they have seen grandiose promises on the stimulus fail to materialize, Obamacare touted as the answer to all their health care needs and turn out to be nothing of the sort, pledges of amazing imminent advances in alternative energy, and so on. He seemed to think that reaching out to the Iranians would lead to a change in the regime’s behavior and attitudes. He was surprised to learn that shovel-ready projects were not, in fact, shovel-ready. He was surprised to learn that large-scale investment in infrastructure and clean-energy projects wouldn’t great enormous numbers of new jobs. He’s surprised that his past housing policies haven’t helped struggling homeowners like he promised. He’s surprised that his signature health-care policy has become as controversial as it has. The “recession turned out to be a lot deeper than any of us realized.” When a woman says her semiconductor engineer husband can’t find a job, Obama says he’s surprised to hear it, because “he often hears business leaders in that field talk of a scarcity of skilled workers.”

The poor guy. He’s always getting blindsided.

This is a stunning insight that should be a pillar of the GOP presidential platform: leaders aren't supposed to be blindsided by current events. We pay them to look ahead and be prepared, not to blithely hope for the best and then play the victim card when things go wrong.

An even more stunning insight comes from the President himself, via Ann Althouse:

Obama is "not spending a whole bunch of time planning for contingencies."

Shouldn't a President plan for contingencies? Obama was talking about the contingency of the Supreme Court possibly striking down some or all of the Affordable Care Act, and his asserted reason for not troubling with contingencies is purported confidence that the Supreme Court will not strike down the act.

I simply don't believe that they aren't planning for contingencies. I believe he doesn't want to talk about contingencies, and I suspect the main contingency is how to present the loss in the Supreme Court to the American people for the purposes of the reelection campaign.

It doesn't seem too farfetched to argue that a President who is continually surprised by the outcome of his actions (or who admits to not spending too much time planning for contingencies) is not very good at planning. When he continues to make the same mistake over and over again despite ample negative feedback, his "naivity" and "confidence" begin to look like arrogance. But wait! Maybe it's not Obama's fault after all!

Scientists have put a name to Obama's particular brand of ignorance-based overconfidence:

The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias in which people perform poorly on a task, but lack the meta-cognitive capacity to properly evaluate their performance. As a result, such people remain unaware of their incompetence and accordingly fail to take any self-improvement measures that might rid them of their incompetence.

I blame Science, which under Obama seems to be having a few problems with heavy handed government interference.


Posted by Cassandra at April 4, 2012 07:03 AM

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Cassandra - I have lived long enough - and learned enough history - that the same people keep getting blindsided by the same things - dictators who didn't conform to their perception of "reasonableness", economies not responding the way they think they should respond....

...and their reaction to all this is always "it's someone else's fault - or "it's out of my control".

I suppose that this all falls under divine comedy- that is, "the more things change....."

Posted by: Bill Brandt at April 4, 2012 12:08 PM

My husband's favorite excuse is, "It's *complicated*!" (as in, you rubes are obviously incapable of understanding the complex reasons I screwed up) :p

Posted by: Help! Help! I'm Being Regressed! at April 4, 2012 12:27 PM

After more than 3 years on the job, the guy is still an amateur executive: all office and no head. But, then, I knew that when I didn't vote for him. So at least I can say I'm not disappointed in my being right...again.

Posted by: spd rdr at April 4, 2012 03:00 PM

This is what comes of the same kind of mentality that tells us we can't keep score in little-kid soccer games because it will harm their self-esteem. When you spend your formative years being protected from failing either through direct parental intervention, through promotion based on diversity objectives rather than merit or through being enabled by being permitted to blame other people or factors out of your control, you simply don't recognize that you have failed or are about to fail.

Posted by: RonF at April 4, 2012 03:10 PM

BTW, with regards to the common use of the word "unexpectedly" by the news media:

I wonder if they are blind to the fact that the use of the bare word "unexpectedly" rather than "Contrary to the President's expectation" or "The administration's expectation" is an editorial comment, not news reporting? Or is it a deliberate effort to again foist the responsibility from the President to unnamed or uncontrollable factors?

Posted by: RonF at April 4, 2012 03:13 PM

I found the results of the general election, as tallied shortly before midnight on November 4th, 2008, most unexpected. Since that event, not so much.

"The Dunning-Kruger effect"...
The shoe fits. Unexpectedly? Hardly.

Unfortunately, we still have 215 days and a wake up until the clock begins to chime and 290 days until the Grand Carriage of State reverts to a solar powered pumpkin for our contingency free POTUS. Ample time for a whole lot of unexpected to happen.

Posted by: RonF at April 4, 2012 03:10 PM

Yup. In a nutshell.

Posted by: bthun-expecting-the-unexpected at April 4, 2012 06:26 PM

"The poor guy. He’s always getting blindsided."
It would seem that shoots the Pulitzer All Seeing Eye award in the tookustial foliage. Even so, I'm certain there must be a more positive light by which to view The Bringer of Change...

Posted by: Norman & Vincent Peales at April 4, 2012 09:11 PM

The only thing missing from this post is linking this "Unexpectedly!!!" to this.

Well, that and what spd said.

Posted by: DL Sly at April 4, 2012 11:33 PM

BTW - Cassandra! The last time I heard you had shut down this blog (to my great dissapointment). Even if I'm late to the revival, let me tell you how glad I am to see you back!

Posted by: RonF at April 5, 2012 10:24 AM

Thank you, Ron!

It makes my day when I see familiar faces in the comments section too :)

Posted by: Cassandra at April 5, 2012 01:47 PM

DL Sly, your link reminds me of one of my carpentry projects.

Which also reminds me why I am not a carpenter by trade.

Our goal should be to find something that Barry is good at. Something.....

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at April 6, 2012 01:21 PM