The Constitution was premised on a system full of factions and polarization. If you’re a fastidious pol who deigns to heal and deal only in a holistic, romantic, unified utopia, the Oval Office is the wrong job for you. The sad part is that this is an ugly, confusing and frightening time at home and abroad, and the country needs its president to illuminate and lead, not sink into some petulant expression of his aloofness, where he regards himself as a party of his own and a victim of petty, needy, bickering egomaniacs.
Once Obama thought his isolation was splendid. But it turned out to be unsplendid.
In After Hope and Change, we contrast the promises of the 2008 Obama campaign with the reality of governing. He was the first president since JFK to come directly from Congress, so some may have hoped for good executive-legislative relations.
In interviews, nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers and senior congressional aides suggested that Mr. Obama’s approach has left him with few loyalists to effectively manage the issues erupting abroad and at home and could imperil his efforts to leave a legacy in his final stretch in office.
Grumbling by lawmakers about a president is nothing unusual. But what is striking now is the way prominent Democrats’ views of Mr. Obama’s shortcomings are spilling out into public, and how resigned many seem that the relationship will never improve. In private meetings, Mr. Reid’s chief of staff, David Krone, has voiced regular dismay to lawmakers and top aides about White House operations and competency across a range of issues, according to several Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Senator Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who was an early supporter of Mr. Obama’s presidential bid, said that if her fellow Democrats were hoping for Mr. Obama to transform into a Lyndon B. Johnson late in his second term, they should quit waiting.
“For him, eating his spinach is schmoozing with elected officials,” she said. “This is not something that he loves. He wasn’t that kind of senator.”
In After Hope and Change, we contrast the optimism of the 2008 campaign with the reality of the Obama presidency. At The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza looks at the president’s response to the unrest in Ferguson.
In many ways, Obama’s difficulty in navigating matters of race as president mirrors his struggles in other areas. He has repeatedly and eloquently spoken about race — and his experiences in making his way in the world as the son of a white mother and a Kenyan father — over the past decade. But those words have done little to heal the racial wounds in the country. Perhaps it’s too much to expect any one individual, even the president, to help finally close such a deep and long-standing gash on the country’s conscience. But such is the historic nature of Obama’s presidency that many people, both white and black, expect him to do just that.
Today at least, Obama’s vision of a post-racial America looks even further away than it did that night a decade ago in Boston.
At The New York Times, Maureen Dowd writes about James Risen, a Times reporter whom the DOJ is trying to pressure to reveal a source.
So why don’t they back off Risen? It’s hard to fathom how the president who started with the press fluffing his pillows has ended up trying to suffocate the press with those pillows.
How can he use the Espionage Act to throw reporters and whistle-blowers in jail even as he defends the intelligence operatives who “tortured some folks,” and coddles his C.I.A. chief, John Brennan, who spied on the Senate and then lied to the senators he spied on about it?
“It’s hypocritical,” Risen said. “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
Risen points to recent stories about the administration pressing an unprecedented initiative known as the Insider Threat Program, which McClatchy described as “a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.”
Risen may be trapped in Ibsen, but Obama is channeling Orwell.
Americans often think of their president as an all-powerful figure who can command the tides of history — and presidents have encouraged this image over the years because the perception itself can be a form of power. But as his critics have made the case that Mr. Obama’s mistakes have fueled the turmoil in places like Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, the president has increasingly argued that his power to shape these seismic forces is actually limited.
“Apparently,” he said in frustration the other day, “people have forgotten that America, as the most powerful country on earth, still does not control everything around the world.”
This is the wild frontier of our globalized world. There are wind-swept deserts and cave-dotted mountains. There are tribes that see borders as nothing more than lines on a map, and governments as forces that come and go. There are blood ties deeper than alliances of convenience, and pockets of extremism that follow religion to violence. It’s a tough place. But that is no excuse. There must be no safe-haven for terrorists who threaten America. We cannot fail to act because action is hard.
In After Hope and Change, we contrast the promises of the 2008 Obama campaign with the reality of governing. His record of vacation-taking is not particularly egregious by presidential standards, but it does break a campaign promise.
On September 18, 2012, Caroline May reported at The Daily Caller:
In an October 20, 2006 C-SPAN interview with New York Times columnist Bob Herbert about his memoir “The Audacity of Hope,” then-Senator Obama explained, in a discussion about presidential aspirations, that presidents must forgo vacations and leisure in order to work for the American people.
“Essentially the bargain that any president, I think, strikes with the American people is: ‘you give me this office and in turn my fears, doubts, insecurities, foibles, need for sleep, family life, vacations, leisure is gone. I am giving myself to you.’ And the American people should have no patience for whatever is going through your head because you’ve got a job to do,” Obama says in the video.
“And so how I think about it is that you don’t make that decision unless you are prepared to make that sacrifice, that trade off, that bargain and I think that what’s difficult and important for somebody like myself who has a wonderful forbearing wife and two gorgeous young children is that they end up having to make some of those sacrifices with you,” he continued. “And that is a profound decision that you don’t make lightly.”
At The Chicago Sun-Times, Steve Huntley writes:
Almost every day, it seems, brings a headline demonstrating how right 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was, and how wrong President Barack Obama was, on the critical issues facing America.
In 2012, Romney warned that Obama’s failure to secure an agreement to keep a residual military force in Iraq would threaten the U.S. gains made at such a high cost in American lives and treasure. “America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence,” Romney asserted.
The chaos in Iraq today supports Romney’s view.
In After Hope and Change, we discuss the president’s rendezvous with reality.
At Commentary, Peter Wehner writes:
Given unfolding events in the world…it might be worth calling attention to some of President Obama’s statements on foreign policy and national security over the years. I’ve included excerpts and headlines from newspaper and magazine articles following quotes from Mr. Obama, in order to help provide context and clarify the record.
Think of this as an exercise in accountability, then; in holding Mr. Obama not to my standards but to his, to measure what he said he’d do against what he has actually done and what has come to pass.
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“The tide of war is receding.”–Address to the nation, June 22, 2011
“The breadth of global instability now unfolding hasn’t been seen since the late 1970s… In the past month alone, the U.S. has faced twin civil wars in Iraq and Syria, renewed fighting between Israel and the Palestinians, an electoral crisis in Afghanistan and ethnic strife on the edge of Russia, in Ukraine.”–“Obama Contends With Arc of Instability Unseen Since ’70s”, Wall Street Journal, June 13, 2014
In After Hope and Change, we compare the 2012 campaign with 2008, when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were rivals.
Of course, Clinton had many kind words for the “incredibly intelligent” and “thoughtful” Obama, and she expressed sympathy and understanding for the devilishly complicated challenges he faces. But she also suggested that she finds his approach to foreign policy overly cautious, and she made the case that America needs a leader who believes that the country, despite its various missteps, is an indispensable force for good. At one point, I mentioned the slogan President Obama recently coined to describe his foreign-policy doctrine: “Don’t do stupid shit” (an expression often rendered as “Don’t do stupid stuff” in less-than-private encounters).
This is what Clinton said about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
She softened the blow by noting that Obama was “trying to communicate to the American people that he’s not going to do something crazy,” but she repeatedly suggested that the U.S. sometimes appears to be withdrawing from the world stage.
Among other things, he promised to promote greater diversity and less gridlock.
At The Daily Beast, Lloyd Green explains that you can’t do both at the same time.
So today, gridlock in Washington simply mirrors who we are and where America is. The numbers say that congressional Democrats are disfavored by a plurality of Americans, that the congressional GOP is disliked by a majority of the country, and that Obama‘s popularity is at a nadir.
Polls also tell us that our citizens do not see the world through similar eyes. When asked about what matters most to them, conservatives’ top policy and word-choices included following the Constitution, stopping abortion, impeaching the president, and halting illegal immigration. Liberals focused on stopping Republicans, Congress doing its job, and amnesty for immigrants. Despite Obama acknowledging that diversity brings its own tensions, the President and his party continue to plug away for open borders, acting as though diversity for its own sake is an unalloyed good, and then recoiling in horror at the face of pushback.