Tag Archives: Robert Gibbs

Season II of The West Wing

New York Magazine has a long essay on the second act of Obama’s Presidency and what he is doing to revitalize it after the disastrous mid-term elections.

The changes at the Obama White House

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 Obama’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 enterprise—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 42—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 weather—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. “What you had was really three or four people running the entire government,” says the former White House strategist. “I thought they put a pretty good Cabinet together, but most of those guys might as well be in the witness-protection program.”

A funny line, no doubt, but an overstatement, surely? Well, maybe not. “I happen to know most of the Cabinet pretty well, and I get together with them individually for lunch,” says one of the most respected Democratic bigwigs in Washington. “I’ve had half a dozen Cabinet members say that in the first two years, they never had one call—not one call—from the president.”

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. “In 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 party—so people compared us to ourselves, or to the perfect, and you always lose that argument,” says Gibbs. “Now there’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 president’s going to get out of town a lot. The president’s going to tell a story and show the country what he’s doing, why he’s doing it, and where we want to go—rather than just dealing with Monday’s or Tuesday’s or Wednesday’s problem.”

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.