Saturday, October 15, 2011

He said he wanted to change how Washington works

Last week, Scott Wilson wrote a rather lengthy article in the Washington Post titled Obama, the loner president. It hasn't gotten quite the attention the critique by Drew Westen received, but the village media are talking about it quite a bit, so I thought I'd read it.

To me, Wilson seems to have two points:

1. Obama doesn't do things the way Washington expects, and
2. Obama isn't Bill Clinton

On the first one:

Obama’s circle of close advisers is as small as the cluster of personal friends that predates his presidency. There is no entourage, no Friends of Barack to explain or defend a politician who has confounded many supporters with his cool personality and penchant for compromise.

Obama is, in short, a political loner who prefers policy over the people who make politics in this country work.

Basically what he's saying is Obama keeps his distance from the traditional Washington game. I can only respond by saying that that is exactly what attracted many of us to his campaign. The good old boys "who make politics in this country work" are the very ones that are so caught up in their power and money that the whole system looks completely out of touch with the real lives of Americans. What many of us wanted in a President is someone who could get out of that bubble of influence and represent the people who sent him there.

But of course Wilson thinks that he's out of touch with us too.

The president never spends more than 15 minutes working a rope line, his advisers say, and donors complain about a White House that keeps Obama away from the necessary push and pull of America’s capitalist democracy.

That's a very interesting combination to put all in one sentence. So let's unpack it a bit. First of all, those of us junkies who spend time looking at photos and videos of President Obama on a rope line hardly come away from that with the feeling that he is short-changing the public. He revels in his contact with people and it shows!

But does anyone think that those donors who are complaining about the White House keeping them at arms length are perhaps not the same ones who gravitate to him on the rope lines but the ones who are expecting access and favors in return for their contributions? If so, good on the White House!

But what was really fascinating is Wilson's longing for more of Bill Clinton's approach.

The Clinton presidency, which Obama frequently praises for its economic stewardship, offers an instructive comparison.

Where Clinton worked a room until he met everyone, Obama prefers to shake a few hands, offer brief remarks and head home to spend the night in the residence, so he can have breakfast with his girls the next morning and send them off to school. That may be good for his mental health, but it’s a challenge for those in the reelection campaign assigned to manage the whims of big donors...

After hours, Obama prefers his briefing book and Internet browser, a solitary preparation he undertakes each night after Sasha and Malia go to bed.

Where Obama spends minutes with donors, Clinton allowed some to spend the night in the Lincoln Bedroom. And Clinton, of course, had the Friends of Bill, who helped him out of trouble (and also got him into it). Obama rarely uses the trappings of his office or his status to make new political allies, whether it’s an evening phone call to a big donor or a thank you to a legislator who casts a tough vote.

All I can say is that perhaps Clinton's presidency would have been better off if he had been more of a "family man." I defended Clinton to the end because I thought what he did with women was his own damn business. But perhaps if he had the same grounding as President Obama, he (and the rest of us) wouldn't have had to spend most of his second term dealing with impeachment.

And the Lincoln Bedroom????? You really want to go there?

Ah, but you see...its all about paying homage to those "big donors." That's what this all comes down to. Again, not only is that what we all expected President Obama to change, but I'd say he's doing just fine with the other 982,967 of us.

Scott Wilson's opinion is what passes for "wisdom" among the village crowd in D.C. And its exactly why so many of them - reporters, politicians and others - are so completely frikin' out of touch.


  1. The President's governing style is also the reason why the Republicans haven't found even one single shred of scandal to use against him. I'm so glad the village idiots aren't getting their 'Clinton' with this President. I'll take a serious family man over a desperately needy glad-handing panderer any day.

  2. Clinton apologists just won't quit. And why are so many of them men? Clinton & his followers need to be as quiet as Bush has been. That is the one thing that I can give Bush points for.

  3. As a State Senator, President Obama played poker with Democrats & Republicans. He is a lot busier now and, being close to his family, has better things to do! Besides, quite a few Republicans, even in leadership positions, declined his invitations. And they are still declining his invitations. So, how is that the President's fault?