Pete, the whining is a bit much to take, isn’t it? But it is not uncommon and seems to be a sort of rhetorical tic employed by many Democratic presidents. They seem to think we should be impressed because they work hard or think deeply about the things they are elected to handle. Remember Bill Clinton reminding us about how hard he worked and about all the late-night meetings? Obama and his spinners also liked to regale us with tales about his endless, soul-searching Afghanistan seminars. They imagine the public is going to give them credit simply for working at a job they were elected to perform.
And they seem to think the public will be impressed because they have a command of minutiae. Obama knows how many troops we should have in each and every Afghan province! Clinton knew the maps and relative population figures for Palestinians and Israelis better than the two sides! Seriously, none of that matters. The minutiae are going to change with the first contact with reality. (Gen. Stanley McChrystal is going to put the troops where they need to go, so long as the White House doesn’t micromanage the battle.) And if the president gets the big things wrong (e.g., supposing Arafat wanted a peace deal, setting up a withdrawal deadline that freaks out our allies and emboldens our foes), none of the small stuff matters.
So why do these Democratic presidents do it? It is the triumph they imagine of intentions over results. And it is a huge act of ego — the hubris of believing that they should be applauded for being so diligent rather than be judged on the results they achieve.