MoDo is having another hissy fit about Obama. In “Takes One to Tango” she snarls that for Barry, it’s really, really lonely at the top. The Moustache of Wisdom has sent in “Obama’s 1-2 Punch?” in which he says here’s hoping the president goes big in his plans for his second term. Here’s MoDo’s tantrum:
President Standoffish doesn’t want to be seen as a stiff.
“Most people who know me know I’m a pretty friendly guy,” he protested at his White House press conference on Monday. “And I like a good party.”
Maybe. But the president always seems to be dancing alone. And that was the vibe of his swan-song press conference for Act One of his presidency.
His words were laced with an edge — churlish, chiding and self-pitying. He sardonically presented himself as Lonely Guy, shafted by the opposition, kicking around the White House on his own. Days before his second inauguration, he seemed to be intimating that the job he had fought so hard for and won against all odds was a bit of a chore, if not a bore.
When the man who once enraptured packed stadiums was asked by The Times’s Jackie Calmes about the criticism that his administration has been too insular, he bristled a tad.
He acknowledged, while conveying that he didn’t believe it, that he could “do a better job” on nurturing personal relationships with lawmakers. (Even if Republicans see him, as Politico’s Glenn Thrush wrote, as “a pedantic, hectoring fuss-budget.”)
“Now that my girls are getting older, they don’t want to spend that much time with me anyway,” he said, as reporters laughed, “so I’ll be probably calling around, looking for somebody to play cards with me or something, because I’m getting kind of lonely in this big house. So maybe a whole bunch of members of the House Republican caucus want to come over and socialize more.”
Some Democrats wish he would start a regular game in the Indian Treaty Room so he could work on his poker face. Others are ready for a Bridget Jones approach: Love the president the way he is. Time to go with the flow.
“He doesn’t reach out very well,” one told me. “People should get over it.”
It is striking how subdued the mood is as the president heads into his second inauguration party.
At his first one, the nation’s capital was suffused with passion and wonder and dreams, nearly two million hope-besotted faces beaming up at the new president, hoping he could save their shirts, shrieking with delight as W.’s helicopter flew away over the Capitol.
Now the thrill is dimmed, with a series of grinding, petty fights ahead. Certainly, there’s a sense among Democrats that they’re happy Obama is president; the race was close enough that they got a metallic taste of how bad the country would have been if that bunch of backward Republicans got in.
But the cost of W.’s misbegotten wars and his mishandling of the economy overwhelmed Obama’s first term. And Obama underwhelmed on traits everyone thought he’d excel at: negotiating, selling, charming, scaring, bully-pulpiting, mobilizing, dealing with Capitol Hill and, especially, communicating. It’s taken the White House four years to develop a coherent message: Pay your bills.
Washington’s mood is as gray as the weather, full of burning Republicans and yearning Democrats.
We’re facing default. Again.
We’re mired in partisan trash-talking. Still.
And despite the tragedy of the children riddled with bullets in Newtown, Conn., no one is expecting any consequential fixes to our absurdly lax gun laws.
Many top Democrats here feel distant from the White House. They like seeing him try to take it to the Republicans on money and, in the all-too-brief time he has left to get things done before he morphs into a lame duck, want him to follow through on guns and immigration, to say this is the right thing to do and this is what we got elected on and either get on board or get out of the way.
The president complained that even when he invites Republicans to a White House picnic and poses with their families, “it doesn’t prevent them from going onto the floor of the House and blasting me for being a big-spending Socialist.”
Steve Stockman, a Republican elected to the House from Texas, has barely started work, but he’s already threatening to start impeachment proceedings against the president if he takes executive action on gun safety measures.
A Greek chorus of historians and pols have been urging the president to spend more time schmoozing with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as other presidents like Jefferson, Lincoln and L.B.J. did to get their way.
But Obama still resists the idea that personal relationships can be pivotal, noting that his “suspicion” is that the issues will be resolved only if Americans “push hard,” vote recalcitrant lawmakers out and “reward folks who are trying to find common ground.”
And it’s true that Republicans have snubbed the president. John Boehner blew off Obama’s invites for six state dinners and Mitch McConnell skipped all but one.
Unlike Chris Christie, Republicans here want to make sure that the president dances alone.
So Obama is supposed to pal around with the pack of lunatics in charge of the Republican party? Really, MoDo, you need to get your meds adjusted. Here’s The Moustache of Wisdom:
If election campaigns are supposed to be an exercise in coming to grips with our biggest problems, then the one we just went through was a dismal failure. Our only real solution — a strategy to reignite consistent growth so we can narrow our income gaps and lift the middle class — never got a serious airing. Instead, each side was focused on how to secure a bigger slice of a shrinking pie for its own base. This lousy campaign produced the worst of all outcomes: President Obama won on a platform that had little to do with our core problems and is only a small part of the solution — raising taxes on the wealthy — so he has little incentive to rethink his strategy. And the Republicans did not lose badly enough — they held the House — to have to fully rethink their strategy. It does not bode well.
In his book “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth,” the Harvard economist Benjamin Friedman argues that periods of economic growth have been essential to American political progress; periods of economic prosperity were periods of greater social, political and religious harmony and tolerance. On Sunday, The Times’s Annie Lowrey wrote a piece quoting Friedman who wondered aloud whether we’re not now entering a reverse cycle, “in which our absence of growth is delivering political paralysis, and the political paralysis preserves the absence of growth.”
I think he’s right and that the only way to break out of this deadly cycle is with extraordinary leadership. Republicans and Democrats would have to govern in just the opposite way they ran their campaigns — by offering bold plans that not only challenge the other’s base but their own and thereby mobilizes the center, a big majority, behind their agenda, to break the deadlock. If either party does that, not only will it win the day but the country will win as well.
What would that look like? If the Republican Party had a brain it would give up on its debt-ceiling gambit and announce instead that it wants to open negotiations immediately with President Obama on the basis of his own deficit commission, the Simpson-Bowles plan. That would at least make the G.O.P. a serious opposition party again — with a platform that might actually appeal outside its base and challenge the president in a healthy way. But the G.O.P. would have to embrace the tax reforms and spending cuts in Simpson-Bowles first. Fat chance. And that’s a pity.
As for Obama, if he really wants to lead, he will have to finally trust the American people with the truth. I’d love to see him use his Jan. 21 Inaugural Address and his Feb. 12 State of the Union Message as a one-two punch to do just that — offer a detailed, honest diagnosis and then a detailed, honest prescription.
On the diagnosis side, Obama needs to explain to Americans the world in which they’re now living. It’s a world in which the increasing velocity of globalization and the Information Technology revolution are reshaping every job, workplace and industry. As a result, the mantra that if you “just work hard and play by the rules” you should expect a middle-class lifestyle is no longer operable. Today you need to work harder and smarter, learn and re-learn faster and longer to be in the middle class. The high-wage, middle-skilled job is a thing of the past. Today’s high-wage or decent-wage jobs all require higher skills, passion or curiosity. Government’s job is to help provide citizens with as many lifelong learning opportunities as possible to hone such skills.
In the State of the Union, I’d love to see Obama lay out a detailed plan for tax reform, spending cuts and investments — to meet the real scale of our problem and spur economic growth. We’ll get much more bang for our buck by deciding now what we’re going to do in all three areas, and signaling markets that we are putting in place a truly balanced approach, but gradually phasing it in. If you tell investors and savers that we’re going to put our fiscal house in order with a credible plan, but one that is gradually phased in, all the money now sitting on the sidelines paralyzed by uncertainty will get off the sidelines and we’ll have a real stimulus.
As for investment, I’d love to see the president launch us on an aspirational journey. My choice would be to connect every home and business in America to the Internet at one gigabit per second, or about 200 times faster than our current national household average, in five years. In an age when mining big data will be a huge industry, when online lifelong learning will be a vital necessity, and when we can’t stimulate our way to prosperity but have to invent our way there, no project would be more relevant.
I still believe that America’s rich and the middle classes would pay more taxes and trim entitlements if they thought it was for a plan that was fair, would truly address our long-term fiscal imbalances and set America on a journey of renewal that would ensure our kids have a crack at the American dream. Then again, I may be wrong. Maybe my baby-boomer generation really does intend to eat it all and leave our kids a ticking debt bomb. If only we had a second-term president, unencumbered by ever having to run again, who was ready to test what really bold leadership might produce.
Man, The ‘Stache just can’t wait until granny’s eating Purina, can he?