Shhh. The president is sleeping
By Keith Koffler
January 31, 2014
President Barack Obama is out of gas. Pooped out. Gone fishing. Or rather, golfing. He’s just not that into it anymore. The republic is safe from any further vast left-wing legislative prescriptions for our ills.
But Obama’s increasing job fatigue is, paradoxically, cause for serious concern. While he sits back, aides in the White House and in the agencies are busy enacting a stealth agenda of rules and regulations. And on the world stage, Washington’s withdrawal threatens national security.
The president on display at Tuesday’s State of the Union is one who has shrunk from the pretension of becoming a president on the order of Ronald Reagan or Franklin Roosevelt into the purveyor of a list of puny policies that tinker at the margins.
Instead of offering “fundamental change” and inspirational hope, Obama made increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors the centerpiece of this year’s address. The increasingly disinterested president even had trouble pronouncing the name of his other “big idea,” a limited savings vehicle the White House is calling a “MyRA.”
Major issues like debt, deficit and entitlements? Fuhgetaboutit, way too much bother.
Obama had entirely unremarkable tenures in both the Illinois and the U.S. Senate, angling almost immediately after entering each to move up. But now he has the same problem as lots of working stiffs. After five years in the same job, the thrill is gone — and the grunt work is to be avoided.
It’s not the State of the Union, but Obama’s recent golf excursion to Hawaii, that may serve as the template for the president’s proclaimed 2014 “year of action.”
Obama played nine times during his 15-day vacation. What’s more, in a not insignificant indication of where his mind is at, he golfed 46 times in 2013 — easily an annual record for him as president and more than twice the 19 times he went out in 2012, when there was the serious work of getting reelected to be done.
You will likely search in vain for a world leader who accomplished significant things in the same year he or she went golfing nearly four dozen times.
For some perspective, President George W. Bush, who was known as a golfer, played only 24 times in more than two and a half years as president before stopping in October 2003, because he felt it wasn’t appropriate to play during wartime, according to White House chronicler Mark Knoller of CBS News.
Obama and his advisers grieve to a sympathetic press that Republicans are to blame for the impasse in Congress. This even as “moderate Democrat” has become an oxymoron and the president touts his crowning left-wing achievement, Obamacare, which he jammed through Congress without convincing a single Republican — they can’t all be right-wing “extremists” — to vote for it.
A republic is intended to be a fractious form of government. Successful legislators, like Reagan and Bill Clinton, knew how to hold their own party’s ranks while picking off enough of the opposition to pass laws.
Obama was never particularly interested in building the relationships needed to curry favor, call in chits and twist arms. But now, he’s finished even pretending.
He’s not going through any halfhearted motions — like he did last year, when he took some Republicans to dinner in a widely celebrated “reaching out” offensive that ended almost immediately after it started. It’s not clear who Obama’s close friends are on Capitol Hill now, or if he even has any — on either side of the aisle.
As if to highlight the point, Obama recently brought back to the White House his former liaison to Congress, Phil Schiliro. But Schiliro won’t be trying to pass new legislation. He’ll be working on implementing the Affordable Care Act and beating back Republican attempts to undermine it.
Republicans are interpreting Obama’s vow to step up his use of executive orders as a play by a leftist president to undemocratically expand his power and unilaterally make policies he sees as inarguably enlightened. And they’re right.
But it’s also the default position of a tired president who would rather have his aides come up with a policy than grind out something more important and far-reaching on Capitol Hill.
So the hired help will do the work. An ever-vigorous John Podesta was brought in for at least a year, to see exactly how much legislation can be passed by the executive branch alone.
Podesta is the perfect person for this job. As a former White House chief of staff for Clinton, he knows how to move both the White House and the agencies. He also created the Center for American Progress, a politically astute left-wing think tank that can serve up endless helpings of ideas for regulatory action.
But Obama’s effeteness is even less reassuring when it comes to foreign policy — where benign neglect can look like a dangerous abdication of duty.
After failing to negotiate a U.S. military presence in Iraq, where al Qaeda is now snatching up real estate, Obama may be on course to do the same — or nearly the same — in Afghanistan.
Having avoided seriously taking a side in Syria, Obama has now ceded diplomatic ground there to the Russians and allowed the festering battleground to become a new magnet and training ground for jihadists of several stripes.
Most frightening is the possibility that Obama’s self-disengagement will lead to an Iranian nuclear weapon.
Few have faith that Obama has the stomach for a war with Iran. He’s already dropped a longstanding U.S. demand, and acquiesced to a “peaceful” Iranian nuclear program. How can he be trusted not to embrace a flimsy final agreement that allows Iran to cheat its way into a nuclear weapon?
Republicans should not be reassured by the passive new Obama. Because while he’s sleeping, his aides at home and U.S. enemies abroad will be filling in for him.