Competence Is Boring…

October 29, 2010 — Leave a comment

A little while ago I was watching a press conference with John Brennan, the counter-terrorism guru for the Obama administration, on the latest terrorism scare related to cargo from Yemen. I was struck by how different this press conference seemed from earlier terrorist scares. Here was a person who shared what he was willing to share, who said clearly that he wasn’t going to share come details, and admitted that there were simply things that he doesn’t know yet. In short, he was competent and professional, clearly outlining what was being done, but not giving into the temptation of stoking the fears of soccer moms throughout the nation.

As I’ve watched CNN and the other news stations following the press conference, it struck me that competence is frankly boring. The news channels worked hard to try to titillate and make more of what Brennan offered, but in the end what they were forced to say is that the Obama administration seems to have things under control, that our experts are working to discern the origins of the attempted attack, and that they are doing all they can (within the limits of our budget . . .a topic for another post) to keep folks safe.

There are lots of arguments that can be made on both the right and the left about the incompetence of the Obama administration, some valid and many driven by partially informed self interest. But in this case hearing someone who is professionally carrying out their job without hysterical histrionics or political posturing is refreshing, even while it is boring.

Could it be that the angst experienced by folks on the left regarding the Obama administration is simply that the real work of political change and governance isn’t sexy, but rather mundane. It requires professionals immersed in the boring details rather than exciting rhetoric. And when done well, it generally is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

What I would give for a season of boredom? Wouldn’t it be great to turn on the news channels and discover that there is nothing on?

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