To hear the White House tell it, President Barack Obama’s commitment to his fellow Democrats is as strong as ever. Democrats on Capitol Hill tell a different story, however, and the national press and the public are catching on.
During a June meeting at the White House to discuss the worsening situation in Iraq, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada expected the president’s help when he told the president that Senate Republicans were blocking dozens of Mr. Obama’s ambassador nominees, including posts of great strategic importance. Instead of putting any pressure on Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky — who was also sitting in the room — President Obama told the senators to work it out. According to The New York Times, Sen. Reid was taken aback and angry. Later, he told reporters that Mr. Obama seemed disengaged.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va., characterizes President Obama’s relationship with the Senate as “nonexistent.” Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent member of the Democratic caucus, says the White House should do a better job “establishing relationships before there is a crisis.” Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill told the Times if her fellow Democrats were hoping the president would turn into Lyndon B. Johnson during his second term, they should quit waiting.
Democrats’ apparent surprise at Mr. Obama’s disengagement is, well, surprising, as disengagement has been the president’s style from the beginning of his presidency.
The president had no interest in working across the aisle as a U.S. senator. When voters elevated him to the White House, they gave him an all-Democratic Congress for his first two years. He responded by letting Sen. Reid and lawmakers do all the heavy lifting to pass the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Perhaps because his inauguration honeymoon lasted well through his second inauguration, President Obama cares nothing about public perception or accountability. He appears to be more concerned about his golf game than foreign or domestic affairs — even New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, a reliable defender of the president, has slammed his habit. Eric Shinseki stayed on as Veterans Affairs secretary while the agency imploded. And Eric Holder is firmly entrenched as attorney general despite his naked hostility to most of the Bill of Rights.
The national press share blame for the president’s lack of leadership because they refused to be critical of him as a candidate, and they refused to aggressively report — and in some cases actively downplayed — the administration’s major mistakes and abuses (from Benghazi to the IRS). They have refused to raise holy hell about the lack of transparency he promised and the lack of access he has provided. In many ways, President Obama’s approach to the job has been positively Nixonian.
The midterm elections are coming up in a couple of months. Democrats want voters to reward the president’s lack of engagement by giving his party both houses of Congress again. Voters should ask themselves if they think the president deserves two years without any real check on the power he’s already abusing.