On ABC’s This Week, the host offered up the suggestion that the failure to do anything meaningful in Washington was President Obama’s fault:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: …a lot of questions about the president’s leadership as he pushes all of these as well, especially after the failure, during the bombings, of the background checks.
It’s created a whole bunch of comparisons, especially in the “New York Times” I noticed. The president, they say, is not enough like LBJ. Front page story this week. Went on and said, “If he cannot translate the support of 90 percent of the public for background checks into a victory on Capitol Hill, what can he expect to accomplish legislatively for his remaining three and a half years in office? Robert Dallek, historian and biographer of President Lyndon B. Johnson, said Mr. Obama seems ‘inclined to believe that sweet reason is what you need to use with people in high office.’ That contrasts with Johnson’s belief that ‘what you need to do is to back people up against a wall.”
Stephanopoulos did accurately point out that LBJ had “massive majorities” of Democrats “in both the House and Senate,” which, obviously, was much different from Obama’s situation. To which Genius George Will responded:
WILL: …Lyndon Johnson did understand that politics is a transactional business. You give something, you get something. This president has an inordinate faith in the power of his rhetoric. He campaigned against Scott Brown, against Chris Christy, against Bob McDonnell. He campaigned hard for the Democratic candidates in 2010 that got shellacked. He campaigned for Obamacare. It’s still very unpopular. His rhetoric is overrated. It is no basis for government.
Now, if you have followed George Will’s ongoing critique of the President, you know that he often comments on how Obama talks too much, is too visible, and “has an inordinate faith in the power of his rhetoric.” That is pretty much the standard Republican criticism of our first black president: he’s just a little too uppity. Doesn’t quite know his limitations.
But I want to point out once again what has lately become another standard Republican critique of President Obama, expressed by Matthew Dowd, who worked for Bush-Cheney, and who now is a frequent talking head on ABC’s This Week. He added his own analysis to Will’s criticism of Obama’s excessive faith in his rhetorical skills:
MATTHEW DOWD: …I think the president, he’s had a lot of great speeches that he’s given. But I think they’ve made a mistake by not having a relationship, not trying to build one-on-one relationships in Congress and saying we’re going to go out and talk to the country. We’re not going to worry about Washington, D.C.
This president has never built relationships outside of saying, I need your vote tomorrow….it’s all been photo ops with Congress. He hasn’t reached out. He hasn’t consistently said come to Camp David, “sit down with me, let’s talk about this.”
I think if the president had that ability—he’s got a 1 on 10,000 ability—he does not have a 1 on 1 ability.
If you listen to a lot of “expert” talk on cable TV, you hear that same criticism of President Obama a lot. He’s aloof. He’s professorial. He’s not good at one-on-one politics.
And it’s all bullshit.
Republican Senator Tom Coburn is said to be one of President Obama’s good friends in the Senate. They are supposed to be fairly close. Coburn has described Obama as a “good personal friend.” And a lot of good their alleged friendship has done the President, or the country. Coburn recently voted against legislation to expand background checks for gun purchases—something that enjoys nearly universal support among the American people—a vote that was exactly the same as Oklahoma’s other extremist senator, and most definitely not a friend of President Obama, the nutty Jim Inhofe.
One must ask: With friends like Tom Coburn, who needs Jim Inhofe?
What political good does it do for Obama to have a good relationship with Tom Coburn? No political good, that’s what. Yet, some folks blame President Obama for not getting background checks passed in Congress because he just can’t seem to “connect” with the galactic egos of mostly Republican legislators.
When people like Matthew Dowd say things like he said on Sunday, that President Obama “hasn’t reached out” and that reaching out to Republicans would somehow change the dynamics in Washington, they are obligated to explain how that would change the dynamics.
Matthew Dowd and other pundits are obligated to explain how such schmoozing would change one damn thing about what is happening, about what has been happening, in the Republican-controlled Congress—yep, the Republicans essentially control the entire Congress these days.
Matthew Dowd should explain how it would work. If President Obama invited, say, Ted Cruz to Camp David for some croquet and Chablis, would that meant that the Tea Party zealot would vote for immigration reform some day? If Obama invited Paul Ryan to play golf every Sunday on the finest course in Virginia, would that mean that Ryan would stop trying to kill Medicare? Would happy Socratic children, their DNA riddled with reasonableness, be born all over Washington, D.C., if only The Scary Negro would simply talk friendly to these guys, cozy up to his political enemies, and massage their Milky Way-size egos?
Come on, people. The problem isn’t that President Obama hasn’t cultivated political relationships with hyper-partisan, fanatically-ideological legislators. It is that those hyper-partisan fanatics mean to slit his political throat, whether they get invited to dinner or not.