By Dave Andrusko
Even five+ years into his presidency, much of the coverage of Barack Obama still holds tenaciously to the point of view that all would be well if it weren’t for those recalcitrant Republicans. That the President routinely disses Republicans and pretends he is reaching for common ground the same time he is rhetorically ripping the GOP to shreds is a truth that has yet to penetrate the Commentariat.
Tomorrow night, President Obama delivers his 2014 State of the Union address. Everything you read in advance is that slash-and-burn will be the order of the day. Let’s think about this in two separate posts.
A headline on a front page story in The Hill today reads, ”Obama’s big speech: banging base drum.” The subhead is, “President Obama is likely to use his State of the Union address Tuesday to rev up liberals for the midterm elections. Rather than seek compromise, he will presents inequality as a problem requiring government action.”
A story on page six reports that the President’s likability numbers are up, according to a new Associated Press/GfK poll. How that can be is a puzzle, except, perhaps, as the public throwing the President a bone as it finds him less and less competent.
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On that front, 31% think Mr. Obama has been an outstanding or above average President, compared to 42% who find him below average or poor. Twenty-five percent believe he is an average President. Those are pretty somber numbers for the man (as the Washington Post put it yesterday) who has discarded “A central ambition of Obama’s presidency — to change the way Washington works .” Why? Because of “hardening partisanship.” (Hint, hint, those rascally Republicans again.)
This Washington Post article, written by Scott Wilson and run yesterday, argues that the Obama administration has come to a consensus; no more Mr. Nice Guy (my characterization, of course).
He’s going to wear out pens and bend ears (“pen and the phone”)–that is, Obama is going to lobby/persuade lawmakers by phone and enact by Executive Order some unspecified agenda. Of course, he has never done the former on any systematic basis; it’s clear he finds one of the core functions of any President beneath him.
Of the latter, it’s frankly scary how little respect he has for the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches. (He also is not beneath hammering the third branch of government—the Supreme Court—as Obama did in his 2010 State of the Union Address.)
For what it’s worth, this is exactly what I expected after what happened in 2013, which even Administration sources and allies conceded to the Post was a “lost year.” Obama really does believe in the mystical power of his voice. Just get him on the trail in campaign-like mode, he believes, and the seas will part.
One other thing in this first post. Wilson, channeling the Obama administration and its supporters, tells us that without the discipline of a campaign (where “Obama wanted to know how his decisions would be explained to voters”), the “administration suffered from a lack of focus.” No doubt that is partially true; President Obama is (by many multiples) a much better campaigner than he is an executive. But it’s also true that Obama’s notoriously penchant to get bored easily probably played a role.
Pro-lifers would anyway, but we need to keep a watchful eye on President Obama. Starting tomorrow, you can be assured of one thing: the level of demagoguery, his stock and trade, will find new depths.