Say this for President Obama: He’s got an uncanny ability to block out distractions and keep his eye on the ball.
Facing a horrific expansion of terrorism in the Mideast, a meltdown of public support at home and major rebukes by the Supreme Court, the president remains fixated on No. 1.
“I’m finding lately I just want to say what’s on my mind,” he told a Minneapolis audience Friday, and then ticked off a series of complaints about — surprise — Republicans.
“They don’t do anything, except block me and call me names,” he said. “If they were more interested in growing the economy for you and the issues that you are talking about instead of trying to mess with me, we would be doing a lot better.”
He wasn’t finished: “The critics, the cynics in Washington, they’ve written me off more times than I can count. But cynicism doesn’t invent the Internet. Cynicism doesn’t give women the right to vote.”
There you have it: the presidential mind in Year 6. Don’t cry for Argentina — cry for me!
Self-pity is never admirable in a public figure, but it seems to be Obama’s default emotion when the going gets tough. Because everything is about him, the whole world is personal.
He is a victim of a vast conspiracy that includes everything from global upheaval to a domestic mood going from simmer to boil. If only everybody would just shut up and do what he says, all would be well.
Alas, Obama is right about one thing. His presidency and the country are at a crossroads. The problem is that his response — woe is me — means things almost certainly will get worse before they get better.
With polls showing most Americans don’t like his policies, don’t see him as honest and don’t believe he can lead effectively, we’re long past the point where the wheels come off, or even the moment where the car ends up in the ditch.
Something approaching a national crack-up now appears inevitable. Recent events suggest it is coming sooner rather than later.
The creation of a new terrorist state out of parts of Syria and Iraq makes attacks on our allies and homeland more likely. Without doubt, Obama’s lack of credibility with friend and foe alike guarantees years of disorder.
The IRS scandal was bad before, but the ridiculous claim that crucial e-mails from seven officials are permanently lost doesn’t pass the smell test. This is a cover-up of behavior that was probably criminal. If the White House gets away with it, the tax man will become another partisan operative.
The collapse of security at the southern border also appears intentional and designed to pressure Republicans into an immigration deal. In fact, the opposite will happen. The invasion — there is no other word for it — of tens of thousands from Mexico will make sensible compromise impossible.
In the darkness, two rays of hope are visible.
First, the Supreme Court rejected Obama’s claim that he can decide when the Senate is in recess and thus avoid its advise-and-consent power. The case involved appointees to the National Labor Relations Board, but the unanimous ruling broadly preserves constitutional safeguards against presidential overreach.
Second, Speaker John Boehner announced the House will file a lawsuit on similar grounds. It will cite the president’s rewriting of ObamaCare and other laws, without congressional approval, as evidence he is failing his sworn duty to “faithfully execute” the laws.
The actions by the court and Boehner have the potential to remind Obama of the duties of his office, and its limits. Both moves are predicated on the shared belief that America is a nation of laws, not of men.
My fear is that Obama is not reconciled to that tradition. When he reacts to congressional rejection of his proposals by warning that “I will not take no for an answer,” he suggests his power is unlimited. When his press secretary says that, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, Obama will not be “scaling back” his appointments, the stage is set for more polarizing conflict.
How does this end? Not soon, and not well.