When a President seems to be on a downward spiral, stories like this seem to come out:
Last Updated: 3:45 AM, October 9, 2011
Posted: 2:49 AM, October 9, 2011Michael Goodwin
The reports are not good, disturbing even. I have heard basically the same story four times in the last 10 days, and the people doing the talking are in New York and Washington and are spread across the political spectrum.
The gist is this: President Obama has become a lone wolf, a stranger to his own government. He talks mostly, and sometimes only, to friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett and to David Axelrod, his political strategist.
Everybody else, including members of his Cabinet, have little face time with him except for brief meetings that serve as photo ops. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner both have complained, according to people who have talked to them, that they are shut out of important decisions.
The president’s workdays are said to end early, often at 4 p.m. He usually has dinner in the family residence with his wife and daughters, then retreats to a private office. One person said he takes a stack of briefing books. Others aren’t sure what he does.
If the reports are accurate, and I believe they are, they paint a picture of an isolated man trapped in a collapsing presidency. While there is no indication Obama is walking the halls of the White House late at night, talking to the portraits of former presidents, as Richard Nixon did during Watergate, the reports help explain his odd public remarks.
Obama conceded in one television interview recently that Americans are not “better off than they were four years ago” and said in another that the nation had “gotten a little soft.” Both smacked of a man who feels discouraged and alienated and sparked comparisons to Jimmy Carter, never a good sign.
Blaming the country is political heresy, of course, yet Obama is running out of scapegoats. His allies rarely make affirmative arguments on his behalf anymore, limiting themselves to making excuses for his failure. He and they attack Republicans, George W. Bush, European leaders and Chinese currency manipulation — and that was just last week.
The blame game isn’t much of a defense for Solyndra and “Fast and Furious,” the emerging twin scandals that paint a picture of incompetence at best.
We heard plenty of stories about how President Clinton was always up late, talking policy with anyone and everyone, keeping aides and interns [cough!] working late. And our friends on the left tried to make some political hay out of President Bush’s normal routine, up, exercising and at work very early, but also early to bed.
But this is the first of the stories I have seen about President Obama’s routine, and my first question would be: has his routine actually changed, or was he running his job this way even when he was riding high in 2009? The picture being painted by Mr Goodwin seems a bit disturbing, on the surface, sort of implying — without directly stating — that the President is losing it, but unless you have more background, it’s at the very least incomplete, and really rather unfair.
However, Mr Goodwin was right on target when he noted that Mr Obama’s supporters “rarely make affirmative arguments on his behalf anymore,” instead blaming everybody else, but that’s understandable: by every objective measure, his presidency has been a failure, and he’s hoping to hang on to his job not by telling us how good a job he has done, but by trying to persuade the voters that the Republicans would be even worse. That’s not usually a winning argument, and the President is a smart enough politician to know that, but it’s really the only one he has.