White House reporters finally, and uncharacteristically, asked the president some tough questions at a press conference last week.
But not about the economy, which appears stalled, or what – if anything – he’s doing about it.
No, they wanted to know how Mr. Obama could save his presidency.
As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank noted, ABC reporter Jonathan Karl “pointed out that Obama’s gun-control legislation collapsed, that his attempts to undo the ‘sequester’ cuts have been ignored and that 92 House Democrats defied his veto threat on a cybersecurity bill.” Karl then asked the president, “Do you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this Congress?”
Milbank later opined – in a phrase that could someday be as memorable as Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” – that Obama’s is a “moribund presidency” at this point.
It’s true. Obama threw the entire weight of his administration behind gun control, and it’s gone basically nowhere. His budget is so irrelevant that nobody seemed to mind it came months late. Benghazi is still dogging him – and so far there’s been no sign of progress in his typically stern promise that he would not “waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.”
In fact, one alleged special operations insider alleged last week that the Obama administration knows full well who masterminded the Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans last Sept. 11, but has allowed him to remain at large in Libya.
Whether that’s true or not, what is incontrovertible is that this administration has not brought the Benghazi killers to justice as the president had so firmly promised to do.
Of course, there’s plenty of time for Mr. Obama to turn his second term around. We’ve seen astonishing political rebounds before, and not so long ago. President Clinton was on his heels when he felt compelled to insist he was still relevant. With their bully pulpit and ability to set a national agenda, presidents have a unique way of being able to pull out of tailspins. Clinton survived the Republican Revolution, impeachment and more.
Whether Obama can pull off a Clintonesque comeback remains to be seen. Unlike Clinton – a charming, inveterate schmoozer – Obama has almost completely eschewed a president’s normal relationship-building with members of both parties in Congress. It’s precisely such a working relationship, built on trust and good faith and communication, that produces the “political juice” the reporter was referring to.
But we would submit Mr. Obama’s political destiny isn’t the important question today. It’s the country’s fate.
“Spring Slowdown Paints Ugly Picture for Jobs,” was the headline Wednesday at CNBC.com.
“The gloomy news continued for jobs as ADP reported Wednesday that private companies created just 119,000 new positions in April,” CNBC reported. “That was well below expectations and confirmation that the labor market is slowing heading into late spring and early summer.”
One CNBC expert suggested the small business sector “is seeing a slowdown likely attributable to the onset of the Affordable Care Act national healthcare plan.”
So, not only is the economy moribund, like the presidency, but the president’s signature legislation, along with his other anti-business policies, may be helping make it so.
We’re not the only ones making that observation. A consensus is building – led by Democrat Sen. Max Baucus – that Obamacare is an impending train wreck. And taking an unusual swipe at the president’s economic policies, comedian Jay Leno recently suggested a way the president could finally close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility: “He should do what he always does: declare it a small business and tax it out of existence. It will be gone in a minute.”
No amount of “political juice” will change economic realities on the ground.