New York Magazine has a long essay on the second act of Obamaâ€™s Presidency and what he is doing to revitalize it after the disastrous mid-term elections.
For Obama, retooling on this scale does not come naturally or happily. Among the hallmarks of his political career has been constancy: a tight and basically static cadre of close advisers and a stubborn resistance to calls for midcourse corrections. Yet in a series of interviews in early January with senior White House officials and many of Obamaâ€™s closest confidants outside the building, a picture emerged of a president engaged in a searching, clear-eyed, and sometimes painful process of self-scrutiny, and now determined to implement a plan to fix what has ailed his enterpriseâ€”and himself. To put behind his White House the frenetic, transactional, shambolic style of former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. To break out of the suffocating cocoon in which he and his team had swaddled themselves. To establish the kind of compelling narrative about where his administration intends to take the country and how it plans to do so that has been lacking since day one.
I was amazed to read how much of an introvert Obama was and how isolated he allowed himself to become.
The more pointed variant of this critique was directed specifically at Obama. Unlike 42â€”who loved to stay up late, jabbing at the speed dial, spending countless hours gabbing with local pols and businesspeople around the country to gauge the political wind and weatherâ€”44 not only eschewed reaching out to governors, mayors, or CEOs, but he rarely consulted outside the tiny charmed circle surrounding him in the White House. â€œWhat you had was really three or four people running the entire government,â€ says the former White House strategist. â€œI thought they put a pretty good Cabinet together, but most of those guys might as well be in the witness-protection program.â€
A funny line, no doubt, but an overstatement, surely? Well, maybe not. â€œI happen to know most of the Cabinet pretty well, and I get together with them individually for lunch,â€ says one of the most respected Democratic bigwigs in Washington. â€œIâ€™ve had half a dozen Cabinet members say that in the first two years, they never had one callâ€”not one callâ€”from the president.â€
You would have thought that with a personality like this, him and Stephen Harper would have become closer friends. I did find this comment interesting by Robert Gibbs.
Perhaps, perhaps not, but that may be beside the point. â€œIn the first two years, controlling both houses of Congress and having the White House meant there was little to no responsibility that was required of the other partyâ€”so people compared us to ourselves, or to the perfect, and you always lose that argument,â€ says Gibbs. â€œNow thereâ€™ll be some ability to compare where each entity wants to take the country, and that will shape in a finer way the values and visions of all those involved. The presidentâ€™s going to get out of town a lot. The presidentâ€™s going to tell a story and show the country what heâ€™s doing, why heâ€™s doing it, and where we want to goâ€”rather than just dealing with Mondayâ€™s or Tuesdayâ€™s or Wednesdayâ€™s problem.â€
It explains why the American electorate hates giving one party a majority in Senate, Congress, and in the White House, you get what the United States got for the last two years.