At a fundraising event earlier this week in New York City, President Obama said this:
What’s blocking us right now is a sort of hyper-partisanship in Washington that I was, frankly, hoping to overcome in 2008. My thinking was when we beat them in 2012 that might break the fever, and it’s not quite broken yet. But I am persistent. And I am staying at it. And I genuinely believe there are Republicans out there who would like to work with us but they’re fearful of their base and they’re concerned about what Rush Limbaugh might say about them…
As a consequence we get the kind of gridlock that makes people cynical about government. My intentions over the next 3 ½ years are to govern. … If there are folks who are more interested in winning elections than they are thinking about the next generation then I want to make sure there are consequences to that.
Mr. Obama’s statement, a variation of what he’s said countless times in the past, is worth examining for what it reveals about him.
1. President Obama is once again engaging in what psychiatrists refer to as projection, in which people lay their worst attributes on others.
In this instance, the most hyper-partisan president in modern times is ascribing that trait to Congressional Republicans. What we’ve learned about Mr. Obama over the years is that he that while he is unusually inept at governing, he’s quite good at campaigning. He certainly enjoys it, having taken the concept of the Permanent Campaign beyond anything we’ve ever seen. It turns out it’s the only thing he does well—no human being in history has raised campaign cash quite like he has—and it’s all he seems interested in doing.
On some deep, subconscious level, though, Mr. Obama seems ashamed of the path he’s chosen. And so the president projects those traits he loathes in himself on to others. To give you a sense of how deep the malady runs, the president does more than merely project; he actually preaches against the very character flaws he himself cannot overcome.
2. The president can hardly go a day without impugning the motivations of his opponents. They never have honest differences with the president. Instead they are suffering from an illness (“fever”), cowardice (afraid of what Rush Limbaugh might say about them), and lack of patriotism (caring about elections rather than future generations). Mr. Obama is the ultimate ad hominem president.
3. The president spoke about cynicism toward government. But if the president is really concerned about this phenomenon, he might look at his own administration, which is dealing with multiplying scandals. I would submit that misleading the country in the aftermath of the deadly siege on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, the IRS’s targeting of political opponents, and seizing the phone records of journalists might well deepen the public’s cynicism toward government. And for the record, trust in the federal government has reached new lows during the Obama years. Might he have some responsibility for that?
4. Mr. Obama professes deep concern “about the next generation.” Those words would be a bit more believable if he were not handing off to the next generation a crushing debt burden that will take generations to undo, if it is ever undone. No president holds a candle to Mr. Obama when it comes to engaging in generational theft.
5. As for gridlock: This is actually inherent in our system of government. It’s called “checks and balances” and “separation of powers.” The president might want to consult this document for more.
I understand Mr. Obama has complained many times that there are checks on his power, but I prefer the wisdom of James Madison to the ambitions of Barack Obama. And, oh, by the way: greater gridlock in Mr. Obama’s first two years in office would have prevented passage of the Affordable Care Act, which the presidential historian George Edwards has called “perhaps the least popular major domestic policy passed in the last century” and which Democratic Senator Max Baucus has warned is a “huge train wreck coming down.” It turns out that gridlock, if not always ideal, beats passing really bad legislation.
Just over a hundred days into his second term, the president finds himself weak, wounded, and on the defensive. Which means Mr. Obama will need to find new enemies to blame, new people to target, and new divisions to exploit.
This is what Hope and Change looks like five years in.