Commentary Magazine


The Obama West Wing and Me

Peter Baker and Jeremy Peters of the New York Times have a story in which they report that now deep in his fifth year in office, “Mr. Obama finds himself frustrated by members of his own party weary of his leadership and increasingly willing to defy him.”

In the article I’m (accurately) quoted as saying, “It makes it a lot harder when it’s your own party. You can’t fire back with the same intensity and vehemence as when it’s the other party. And it just changes the dynamics — people expect you to be criticized by the other party. When your own party does it, it’s an indication of weakness.”

So what was the West Wing’s reaction to my comments? A source told Mike Allen of Politico, “Bernie Sanders and Peter Wehner — not Democrats.”

This strikes me as a silly response. Let’s begin by pointing out that while Senator Sanders isn’t a Democrat–he’s an Independent and self-described democratic socialist–he caucuses with the Democrats. Which makes him a de facto member of the Democratic Party.

Beyond that, the claims made by Messrs. Baker and Peters are clearly true. They point out that in recent weeks:

disgruntled Democrats, particularly liberals, have bolted from the White House on issues like National Security Agency surveillance policies, a planned military strike on Syria and the potential choice of Lawrence H. Summers to lead the Federal Reserve. In private, they often sound exasperated describing Mr. Obama’s operation; in public, they are sometimes only a little more restrained.

I’d add to that list the fact that it was the Democratic majority leader, Harry Reid, who earlier this year pulled President Obama’s gun-control legislation after (as this Washington Post story reported) Mr. Obama’s comprehensive gun-control effort suffered defeat in the Democratically-controlled Senate, with all the major proposals he backed failing to gain enough votes. And it was a Democratic senator, Max Baucus, who in April referred to the Affordable Care Act as “a huge train wreck coming down.”

The Obama presidency is in a state of disrepair. The president’s support among Democrats is now below 80 percent, which is dangerous territory this early into a second term and doesn’t bode well for the mid-term election next year. There’s a widespread perception, rooted in reality, that the president is weak, out of touch, and out of gas. He’s become a tired and tiresome figure. Americans are tuning him out. 

In sum, then, it’s been quite a bad year for Mr. Obama. And it’s reasonable to assume that things will get worse, not better, for this most incompetent community-organizer-turned-commander-in-chief.

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