In his latest, "Barack Obama, bewildered bystander," Charles Krauthammer does a beautiful job of conflating authentic scandals and partisanly hyped non-scandals--the VA, lapses in Secret Service professionalism, the IRS, Obamacare's bungled rollout--with a "sense of disorder growing" in America, namely around "the summer border crisis, Ferguson, the rise of the Islamic State, Ebola." In confronting these "crises" (the latter of which has, to date, affected all of three Americans; the former of which vanished from national attention as swiftly as it arose), the country, says Krauthammer, "expects from the White House not miracles but competence."
The beauty of Krauthammer's thesis, from any admiring student of propaganda's point of view, is both multifold and rather obvious. He deftly equates past non-scandals (e.g., the IRS) with genuine abominations (e.g., the VA), so that a history of administrative corruption and incompetence takes subtle root in the mind of the reader prior to the reader encountering Krauthammer's noted "crises" (again, both real and fabricated). Thus the reader is primed to confuse crises with scandals, as well as to confuse the administration's often perfectly adept responses with a kind of characteristic incompetence.
Moreover, there is always a "sense of disorder growing" within the mental boundaries of a global superpower's multitudes, since the world is a messy place. The hostile propagandist's challenge is to convert unavoidable disorder into a president's personal responsibility. And this, Krauthammer does brilliantly. He mixes and mismatches, sorts and contorts, and in general conjures a horrifyingly messy hallucination from an inherently disorderly planet and often unruly bureaucracy--all of which, somehow, is Obama's fault; the result, one gathers without really realizing it, of this loathsome president's lack of superhuman clairvoyance.
"Obama reflexively insists on playing the shocked outsider when something goes wrong within his own administration," charges Krauthammer. "When it ... turns out that vast, faceless bureaucracies tend to be incapable, inadequate, hopelessly inefficient and often corrupt, Obama resorts to expressions of angry surprise."
Some might say that Obama reacts with expressions of angry surprise, but where's the propagandistic fun in that? Others might note that Lincoln was repeatedly surprised and indeed appalled at the incompetence of his generals; that Polk had a major treaty negotiated by a diplomat he had fired; that JFK constantly worried from agonized experience that there is "always some son of a bitch" in government who doesn't get the memo and balls up carefully laid plans; that both Grant and Harding were forever at the cruel mercy of their unhelpful "friends"; or that Truman, in late '52, observed of the incoming president, "He'll sit there all day saying do this, do that, and nothing will happen. Poor Ike, it won't be a bit like the military. He'll find it very frustrating."
The essential point here is that in the hands of an accomplished--meaning subtle--propagandist, even Abraham Lincoln's unexampled presidency can be convincingly portrayed, to the unsophisticated, as a nightmare of executive incompetence (and even heartless immorality, given--without historical elucidation--his postponements of emancipation and his planned, postwar leniency toward murderous traitors). The trick lies in lots of fast-shuffling, and Krauthammer's shuffling is a blur.