Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Obama's Inability to Govern


Ten days ago Maureen Dowd took President Obama to task for his failure to govern. My post, here.

Writing about Obama’s failure to persuade the Senate to override a filibuster of a new gun control bill, she suggested that other, more competent presidents would have succeeded.

Then, Dowd offered some suggestions for what a better president might have done… like socialize more with members of Congress. She did not quite say it, but it’s easier to persuade your friends than your enemies. She was suggesting that when you demonize people they are less likely to take your calls.

Perhaps they were not the best suggestions, but Dowd’s point was well taken.

Nevertheless, commentators from the left and the right pounced on Dowd for offering naïve recommendations about tactics.

One understands why liberal media types would have criticized Dowd. Their reputations and their judgment are in play. They have gone all-in on Barack Obama. They have so much invested in Obama that they are constitutionally incapable of admitting that they have been had.

I find it harder to understand why conservative pundits rejected Dowd’s analysis. By focusing on her tactical recommendations they succeeded in obscuring the larger and more salient issue: Obama’s manifest ability to govern.

By shifting the debate they were, inadvertently, sustaining the myth of Obama.

Members of the mainstream media who break ranks on Obama should be encouraged and praised, not attacked.

Clearly, Dowd struck a nerve. She also gave journalists cover to ask more probing questions of Obama himself.

In answering a question by Jonathan Karl at his press conference yesterday President Obama showed the world that he does not know how to govern.


“But, Jonathan,” he lectured Karl, “you seem to suggest that somehow, these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave. That’s their job. They are elected, members of Congress are elected in order to do what’s right for their constituencies and for the American people.”

ABC News’s Jonathan Karl asked Obama if he was already out of “juice” to pass his agenda, citing the president’s inability to get a watered-down gun bill passed in the Senate, Congress swatting away Obama on the sequester cuts, and the recent passage of a cybersecurity bill in the House with 92 Democrats on board, despite a veto threat from the White House.

“Well, if you put it that way, Jonathan, maybe I should just pack up and go home,” President Obama said with a flash of irritation, before tossing off a Mark Twain line: “Rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point.”

Then he put on his best professorial mien to give his high-minded philosophy of governance: Reason together and do what’s right.

“But, Jonathan,” he lectured Karl, “you seem to suggest that somehow, these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave. That’s their job. They are elected, members of Congress are elected in order to do what’s right for their constituencies and for the American people.”

Dowd continued:

Actually, it is his job to get them to behave. The job of the former community organizer and self-styled uniter is to somehow get this dunderheaded Congress, which is mind-bendingly awful, to do the stuff he wants them to do. It’s called leadership.

He still thinks he’ll do his thing from the balcony and everyone else will follow along below. That’s not how it works.

Of course, many of us believe that it is a good thing that Obama cannot ply Congress to his will. You might be more than happy to see the Senate gun control bill fail.

Still, if you want to understand the difference between a demagogue and a leader Dowd’s analysis is a good place to start.

Of course, Dowd is echoing Dwight Eisenhower’s definition of leadership:

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

Dowd also quoted an Obama riff from the White House Correspondents Dinner, one that seems to be an attempt to respond to her column of ten days ago.

In Dowd’s words:

“Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress,” he said in an alleged joke at the dinner Saturday night. “ ‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask. Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell.”

He insisted primly on Tuesday: “I cannot force Republicans to embrace those common-sense solutions. I can urge them to. I can put pressure on them. I can, you know, rally the American people around those common-sense solutions, but, ultimately, they themselves are going to have to say ‘We want to do the right thing.’ ”

He said that if lawmakers are worried about primaries and afraid that working with him will be seen as “a betrayal,” he can try to “create a permission structure for them to be able to do what’s going to be best for the country.”

What does it mean, Dowd asks, to create a “permission structure?” Why does Obama always assume that he alone knows what is best for the country?

The attempted joke about Mitch McConnell fell flat, so Dowd doubled down on the thought, suggesting that perhaps having a drink with the Republican leader might be a good thing.

As I said, if you treat the opposition as your enemy they will not be able to compromise or negotiate with you?

It sounds silly to reduce it all to a drink or a coffee, but let’s try to think more deeply before dismissing Dowd’s thoughts. Those who believe that it would be a good thing for the mainstream media to be more skeptical of Obama would do well to praise those members of said media who break ranks.

4 comments:

Jeff Dorsai said...

"I cannot force Republicans to embrace those common-sense solutions."

I love how Obama always frames issues between common sense (his position) and the GOP's position ... Why doesn't he just ask them when they stopped beating their spouse ?

He apparently is genetically incapable of not insulting the opposing party members even when he's talking about talking to them ...

History will not be kind to Mr. Obama ... and it shouldn't be ...

Bobbye said...

A wolf cannot be the leader of sheep just as a sheep cannot be the leader of wolves. In order for 'leadership' to happen the leader and those being led have to be in basic agreement of what results are desired.This is why mission statement is important to most organazations. It establises the goals. In the current political arena there are goals, such as 'how to keep children safe'. There are different ideas, lots of data. But that discussion is not happening, not even by Ms Dowd. She also exhibits no 'leadership'.

Sam L. said...

"I find it harder to understand why conservative pundits rejected Dowd’s analysis. By focusing on her tactical recommendations they succeeded in obscuring the larger and more salient issue: Obama’s manifest ability to govern." Should be "manifest INability".

Conservative pundits must be disagreeing with her estimation of Obama's ability to persuade. I see none--no ability whatever. Partly he does not try to; partly he does not think he needs to; partly he thinks that's beneath him. There have been clear signs that he believes that whatever he wants he should get, well, because he wants it, dammit! He seems to have no concept of persuasion, horse-trading, compromise...and a host of other such actions.

Anonymous said...

I tell y'all that Obama is "The One," the Messiah. None of you will believe me. I don't understand why. Sigh.

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