Presidents nearly always come with fully-functional egos. After all, climbing the greasy pole of American politics requires rich reserves of self-confidence. And self-confidence is equally necessary to being an effective president. No one wants a Captain Queeg in the White House. But Barack Obama combines his egocentricity with an almost boundless intellectual arrogance. It is one of the primary reasons his presidency has been so devoid of successes and so filled with failures and disasters. Only Woodrow Wilson comes anywhere close to being in the same league. And look what happened to him.
The reason, as Noemie Emery points out in the Washington Examiner, is that men like Obama and Wilson can’t learn from their mistakes because they cannot admit, or even conceive, that they can make mistakes.
The conventional view of what has gone wrong — that Obama lacked experience, and that first-term senators should be viewed with suspicion — is undercut by the fact that he has had six years of experience, and failed to learn from it. At home and abroad, Obama makes mistakes over and over, with the same result, and takes nothing from them. He disses his friends, placates aggressors and seems surprised that aggressors advance and whole regions catch fire.
His arrogance keeps him from even listening to anyone who disagrees with him.
He refuses to bargain with Congress, insults opponents, imposes unpopular policies by fiat and seems surprised when his measures result in court challenges, when polarization increases, opposition solidifies, divisions harden and gridlock prevails. Deal-making is the essence of politics, but Obama finds it demeaning, so he resorts to brute force when he has the means to (as in the still-festering matter of healthcare). Alternatively, as with immigration, Obama resorts to executive actions that stir angry resistance and are frequently halted by courts.
Yesterday, at a news conference in Germany, Obama criticized the Supreme Court for a decision the court has not yet even made. It is not uncommon for presidents to criticize the court after decisions they don’t like (Andrew Jackson famously said in one case, “the court has made its decision, now let it enforce it”), but only Obama, as far as I know, has shown so little respect for a co-equal branch of government as to, effectively, instruct the court on its duty. He’s done it before.
Yesterday’s instructions to the court are with regard to King v. Burwell and whether federal subsidies are available in the federal health insurance exchanges. Obama said that it, “should be an easy case. Frankly, it probably shouldn’t even have been taken up.” I imagine the Supreme Court justices — not without their own egos by any means — appreciated that from someone who has not spent 30 seconds on even a night court bench. The decision, opines Obama, is “not something that should be done based on a twisted interpretation of four words, in, as we were reminded repeatedly, a couple-thousand-page piece of legislation.”
Is it really a “twisted interpretation” to think that “established by the states,” means, well, “established by the states”?
We’ll all find out what the Supreme Court thinks it means by the end of the month. It is not unprecedented, by any means, for the court to change its mind at the last minute. Telling the court what its obligations are is a pretty good way of nudging a justice or two to decide against the administration.