Opinion

The Great Debate

Shhh. The president is sleeping

By Keith Koffler
January 31, 2014

President Barack Obama is out of gas. Pooped out. Gone fishing. Or rather, golfing. He’s just not that into it anymore. The republic is safe from any further vast left-wing legislative prescriptions for our ills.

But Obama’s increasing job fatigue is, paradoxically, cause for serious concern. While he sits back, aides in the White House and in the agencies are busy enacting a stealth agenda of rules and regulations. And on the world stage, Washington’s withdrawal threatens national security.

The president on display at Tuesday’s State of the Union is one who has shrunk from the pretension of becoming a president on the order of Ronald Reagan or Franklin Roosevelt into the purveyor of a list of puny policies that tinker at the margins.

Instead of offering “fundamental change” and inspirational hope, Obama made increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors the centerpiece of this year’s address. The increasingly disinterested president even had trouble pronouncing the name of his other “big idea,” a limited savings vehicle the White House is calling a “MyRA.”

Major issues like debt, deficit and entitlements? Fuhgetaboutit, way too much bother.

Obama had entirely unremarkable tenures in both the Illinois and the U.S. Senate, angling almost immediately after entering each to move up. But now he has the same problem as lots of working stiffs. After five years in the same job, the thrill is gone — and the grunt work is to be avoided.

It’s not the State of the Union, but Obama’s recent golf excursion to Hawaii, that may serve as the template for the president’s proclaimed 2014 “year of action.”

Obama played nine times during his 15-day vacation. What’s more, in a not insignificant indication of where his mind is at, he golfed 46 times in 2013 — easily an annual record for him as president and more than twice the 19 times he went out in 2012, when there was the serious work of getting reelected to be done.

You will likely search in vain for a world leader who accomplished significant things in the same year he or she went golfing nearly four dozen times.

For some perspective, President George W. Bush, who was known as a golfer, played only 24 times in more than two and a half years as president before stopping in October 2003, because he felt it wasn’t appropriate to play during wartime, according to White House chronicler Mark Knoller of CBS News.

Obama and his advisers grieve to a sympathetic press that Republicans are to blame for the impasse in Congress. This even as “moderate Democrat” has become an oxymoron and the president touts his crowning left-wing achievement, Obamacare, which he jammed through Congress without convincing a single Republican — they can’t all be right-wing “extremists” — to vote for it.

A republic is intended to be a fractious form of government. Successful legislators, like Reagan and Bill Clinton, knew how to hold their own party’s ranks while picking off enough of the opposition to pass laws.

Obama was never particularly interested in building the relationships needed to curry favor, call in chits and twist arms. But now, he’s finished even pretending.

He’s not going through any halfhearted motions — like he did last year, when he took some Republicans to dinner in a widely celebrated “reaching out” offensive that ended almost immediately after it started. It’s not clear who Obama’s close friends are on Capitol Hill now, or if he even has any — on either side of the aisle.

As if to highlight the point, Obama recently brought back to the White House his former liaison to Congress, Phil Schiliro. But Schiliro won’t be trying to pass new legislation. He’ll be working on implementing the Affordable Care Act and beating back Republican attempts to undermine it.

Republicans are interpreting Obama’s vow to step up his use of executive orders as a play by a leftist president to undemocratically expand his power and unilaterally make policies he sees as inarguably enlightened. And they’re right.

But it’s also the default position of a tired president who would rather have his aides come up with a policy than grind out something more important and far-reaching on Capitol Hill.

So the hired help will do the work. An ever-vigorous John Podesta was brought in for at least a year, to see exactly how much legislation can be passed by the executive branch alone.

Podesta is the perfect person for this job. As a former White House chief of staff for Clinton, he knows how to move both the White House and the agencies. He also created the Center for American Progress, a politically astute left-wing think tank that can serve up endless helpings of ideas for regulatory action.

But Obama’s effeteness is even less reassuring when it comes to foreign policy — where benign neglect can look like a dangerous abdication of duty.

After failing to negotiate a U.S. military presence in Iraq, where al Qaeda is now snatching up real estate, Obama may be on course to do the same — or nearly the same — in Afghanistan.

Having avoided seriously taking a side in Syria, Obama has now ceded diplomatic ground there to the Russians and allowed the festering battleground to become a new magnet and training ground for jihadists of several stripes.

Most frightening is the possibility that Obama’s self-disengagement will lead to an Iranian nuclear weapon.

Few have faith that Obama has the stomach for a war with Iran. He’s already dropped a longstanding U.S. demand, and acquiesced to a “peaceful” Iranian nuclear program. How can he be trusted not to embrace a flimsy final agreement that allows Iran to cheat its way into a nuclear weapon?

Republicans should not be reassured by the passive new Obama. Because while he’s sleeping, his aides at home and U.S. enemies abroad will be filling in for him.

 

PHOTO (TOP): President Barack Obama prepares to depart Andrews Air Force Base aboard Air Force One, in Maryland, January 29, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

PHOTO (INSERT 1): President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 28, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

PHOTO (INSERT 2): President Barack Obama and Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) talk during a round of golf at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, May 6, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Comments
62 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

@EconCassandra, I agree with you that the wealthy class has earned a large share of blame for the state of the U.S. economy. I believe the place to start is to eliminate their ability to buy Congresspeople. Lobbying should be eliminated. My thought is, if we start there, a domino effect might take care of some of the rest. Meaning that the word “Constituents” returns to its original meaning – the people who vote for you, rather than the real constituent of today – the lobbyist/corporation who pays for a re-election campaign.

You know the answer to how one eats an elephant…

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive
 

Internal squabbling demeans America. A Congress that will halt government as a political stunt needs to feel the wrath of people of goodwill – if there are any left.

A hegemonic power that is crippled by the posturing of a bunch of tough-guys in its legislature is a global laughing stock. You can do better America.

Posted by Colmery | Report as abusive
 

shhh…you might wake him up…!

Posted by rikfre | Report as abusive
 

I generally read with interest the conservative opinion pieces that appear at Reuters. But this is the worst kind of propaganda. Please do no waste my time again by highlighting such pap on the front page.

Posted by OkieRedux | Report as abusive
 

I am retired US Soldier. I spent most of 2005-2007 dodging flying metal in Afghanistan. 26 years of service. I came to Cleveland in 2012. 30% of kids here do not finish High School. Now that is a real problem.
Honestly, what will America be like in 20 years after this kind of sickening problem is left to fester?

What I see is that America is deteriorating.

Right now there are some guys in a prison in Cuba, and they are locked up without hope, and they did not do a single thing wrong. And there they sit. Some people might think that I am strange to pick out a prisoner at Guantanamo as a subject for complaint. Not so. We are only as free as that guy who has lost all his rights and no one cares a wink about him even though he has done nothing wrong against the US. Every day that people like that suffer is just one more nail in the coffin for our precious freedoms and everything noble that the US previously stood for.

The President likes to play golf and have a great time. Meanwhile, the nation is carrying on with several disgraceful mistakes, and nothing is being done about them. Drone war needs to stop. Killing women and kids all over the place needs to stop. Guantanamo needs to be closed. The NSA needs to reverse course and obey laws and common sense, and not be eager about tracking people on Angry Birds. The Congress needs to not be lied to. If the President is not doing his job well and wants to vacation and rhetoric in place, then we have to turn to the Congress. They, along with the rest of us, are being squeezed out. Robert Gates says that Obama detests Congress. Well, that is not good for any American. Our country needs some real leadership before we see some kind of crash that ruins our futures.

Posted by Cleveland999 | Report as abusive
 

@ JL4 –

You said no one could point to a single reason and say “this is the reason for all our problems”. Well, I did exactly that, but you will not accept the answer.

THAT is the underlying problem of the American people. We seem to have an inordinate amount of difficulty in understanding that a strong wealthy class is NEVER good for this nation. Most other nations have a more realistic concept of what the wealthy class can do to a nation. But we tend to idolize the wealthy class.

THIS is the real underlying problem. You can say “it’s the wealthy class, stupid!” until you are blue in the face, but no one will accept what is literally the “elephant in room”.

This attitude has allowed the wealthy class to run rough shod over the American people since our beginning.

It is the reason why this country has a history of massive boom and bust cycles (more than 50 recessions and depressions since 1790), basically without any restraint over the wealthy class whatsoever.

And they are the direct cause of our economic and social problems today, because beginning in 1980 they once again began to rise to their former positions of power that they last held during the 1920s.

This nation’s economy is about to crash again as it did in 1929, SOLELY because of wealthy excess and unending greed.

US history documents ALL of this, yet the American people bristle when you say “it’s the wealthy class, stupid!” because they simply CANNOT seem to make the connection between the power and stupendous wealth of the wealthy class and the problems that means for the rest of the American people.

If we cannot understand the problem, we cannot find a solution for it.

Clearly, we will never understand that it is the wealthy class that is directly responsible for all of the economic and social problems we have today.

Equally clearly, we are doomed to continue the boom and bust cycles that will eventually destroy this nation.

In fact, this next bust could easily be our last.

I think we have finally reached a breaking point in this nation’s history where we as a nation cannot survive these people any longer.

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

I find it interesting that a mixed-race guy, raised by a single-parent, graduates from Columbia and Harvard law, and moves up the political food chain to the highest office in the land, has a core grievance with the country that offered him so much opportunity.

Then he uses his power and influence to attempt to radically transform the country form one of a meritocracy to one not of equal opportunity, to one of equal outcomes–based primarily on ones status within the protected classes, and not on their individual skills and motivation.

Something is wrong, when success is positioned as a zero sum game, where no one gets ahead without someone else giving something up.

This President is has been privileged. He was able to take advantage of opportunities not available to most Americans. Was he an honor student, or the beneficiary of affirmative action and school quotas. We do not even know how he paid for his Ivy League education. We know less about this guy than any President in the recent past (even GWB and Al Gore’s college grades).

So this President is not tired, nor is he out of gas. He’s just not up to the job. He wanted the visibility, power and influence, but was not prepared, nor more importantly, motivated to do the work required to excel in the job. He is incapable of building relationships at any level–even within his own party. (Remember, during the build up to the passing of ACA, when Reid and Pelosi effectively removed him from the process?) One cannot expect execution when the foundation is built on platitudes.

America drank the kool-aid, replacing substance with a facade, defined primarily by his physical appearance. And, this is the end result. Expecting anything more is the domain of fools.

Posted by COindependent | Report as abusive
 

@CO

I generally agree with you but “replacing substance with a facade,”…

He followed Bush, that’s why we have him. His opponent hired a Hail Mary Bimbo to maintain interest in his campaign. I give BO a C-/D+, but I rate his opponents D+/D-. ‘Rape as its own contraceptive’ deserved crucifixion.

Posted by ARJTurgot2 | Report as abusive
 

ARJ Bush was a known quantity, as was McCain. Whether one agreed with their policies or not, each has a documented history. As for this President….not much, as the press did (and continues) a poor job of vetting his man. We still know very little about him.

Perhaps after he leaves office only then we might learn who is really is and where he came from.

Posted by COindependent | Report as abusive
 

@ COindependent –

Excellent comment!

Absolutely the best analysis of Obama I have ever read!

Posted by EconCassandra | Report as abusive
 

That was damned good COindependant! I never quite looked at it that way, but it sure did make a lot of sense. The truth shows thru.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

Though thinking about it, I would understand his approach. If he indeed did get to where he is based on advantages, would he not think that others should also get those same advantages? Hence his apparent policies? If he did not get those advantages, and truly worked his way to the top by merit, then I would expect what you do, that he would support meritocracy? I think that true meritocracy leaves the large majority behind so to speak. Jealousy and other feelings abound… And when the gap in economic status and standards of living widen too, one in the “lower” wrung would not care much about the theories and more about the outcome. When the gap is narrower, those feelings are less important and meritocracy OR Oligarchy work well. I think history would support this.

Posted by tmc | Report as abusive
 

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