Seriously, Politico. Did you really do an article on whether President Obama is likable enough? Sweet fancy Moses, they did. But worse than that, this piece was on how his likability is affecting the legislative progress. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that the reporter asked such an inane question or that the President felt he needed to defend himself against such a charge. Here’s how they began.
He’s likable enough, as it turns out.
President Barack Obama, a man known for his professorial aloofness and unwillingness to schmooze his enemies into submission, lamented — tongue-in-cheek — that Republicans are too worried about Fox News and the tea party to allow themselves to be swayed by his charming, fun-loving personality.
Good Lord. I don’t even know where to begin with this bit of foolishness. This is some hard-hitting journalism. In our nation’s history, we’ve had several Presidents who would have been considered, let’s say, “not quite warm and fuzzy,” if not outright sociopaths. But we needn’t go all the way back to Andrew Jackson nor a more modern President like Richard Nixon to prove the point. Let’s try this from the opposite direction — toward the really likable folks — and look at recent history.
George W. Bush was known for being quite a charming fellow. He even made up nicknames for everyone he worked with — how folksy! Still, all of that charm didn’t seem to help him get an immigration bill passed. And apparently being a President whom you’d love to have a beer with did little when he tried to privatize social security. William Jefferson Clinton is an even better example.
President Clinton is, if not the most charming politician ever, definitely the most charming politician alive. Even his enemies talk about how annoyingly charming he is. So it’s not surprising that he got everything done legislatively that he wanted. For example, health care reform…OK, OK, bad example. Clearly with the economy going extremely well (unemployment rate 4.4%) in 1998, and his popularity untarnished, there’s no way that the Republicans would even think about impeaching…OMG, it’s almost as if politicians do things based on a political calculus and not on their opponents’ Q rating. But this is the sorry state of modern political reporting folks.
This entire thing got started by a question asked by Jackie Calmes, a veteran New York Times reporter no less.
“I’d like to ask you, now that you’ve reached the end of your first term, starting your second, about a couple of criticisms, one that’s longstanding, another more recent. The longstanding one seems to have become a truism of sorts, that you’re–you and your staff are too insular, that you don’t socialize enough.”
Bear in mind that this is a professional reporter and I do this in my spare time. How is it possible that I’m better informed that a reporter from the New York Times? This sort of thing is really easy to check, which is just what the National Journal did. Turns out that Obama has extended numerous invitations only to be continually spurned. In fact, John Boener has already turned down invitations to six state dinners. Not to mention not one Republican choose to show up to a special screening of Lincoln, complete with the stars and director Steven Spielberg. But besides the utter silliness of the question, the fact that she’s unaware that the President has in fact invited Republicans over on numerous occasions and that they’ve refused, just shows a level of incompetence.
So let’s do a final tally. A politician’s personal likability has very little to do with what he or she is able to get done via the legislative process. Even if one were to assume that all deals were made by schmoozing and boozing, President Obama has already done plenty to try to ingratiate himself with the opposing side. It is in fact the other side that has been refusing to break bread with him. Literally. However, despite (what should be) all of these well-known facts, again we come to this place. A place where the President has to answer why he isn’t being congenial enough toward the Republicans. Frankly, I don’t think we need our politicians to be bosom buddies. But I digress.
It’s like an unstoppable meme. The Republicans behave obstinately and rather than call them on their bullshit, reporters from mainstream media outlets parrot irrelevant, sometimes clearly misleading talking points at administration officials and the President himself. I wish Politico weren’t the only ones doing this but I’ve seen similar stories in a variety of publications and stations including The Daily Beast and CNN to MSNBC itself. Who cares if the information is freely available and easy to get. Who cares what the actual truth is. The important thing is the beltway media has already decided. President Obama aloof and condescending manner have prevented him from enacting all kinds of legislation. With the possible exceptions of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Stimulus bill, the creation of the Consumer Protection Bureau, expanding the Pell Grant Program, and the START Treaty. But nothing else. Oh yeah, and there was that tiny piece of legislation called the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. This was an enormous piece of legislation on a topic so fraught and so complex that its predecessors (both Democrat and Republican) have failed time after time for the last 100 years. The ACA was such a huge political lift that the most charming politician ever alive wasn’t able to get it passed. Not even close actually. But forget about President Clinton, there’s even a President on Mount Rushmore right now that couldn’t that shit through. Sorry Teddy.
Damn, if only Obama played more golf with the Republicans, then maybe he could have gotten some stuff done…Oh wait.