YAKIMA, Wash., March 9, 2013 — Both the President and the Republican leadership need to get back to the center of the political spectrum. Each is so busy pointing fingers at the other that they fail to realize they have three fingers pointing back at themselves.
According to Frontline, on the night of President Obama’s first inaugural celebration, several top Republican leaders met in a Washington steakhouse to lick their wounds and decide how they would handle the new President.
At that meeting, which was hosted by Newt Gingrich, the top Republican leadership decided that they, meaning the Republican Party, would oppose anything Obama proposed.
Since then, Republicans have rejected anything meaningful the President has put forth about 95 percent of the time.
In Obama’s first four years, less rather than more has been accomplished. It appears that little more will get done in his second term. Why?
The President is well educated, having graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. He was elected President of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, the first person of color ever so honored. He was a U.S. senator from 2005 to 2008, after serving as a State Senator in Illinois from 1996 to 2004.
His keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention was a defining moment in his political career. The speech was brilliant, sophisticated, and inspirational, lauded by the entire nation. Obama went straight from being a state representative to the big leagues of presidential politics.
Did the Democratic leadership move him to the head of the line prematurely?
The truth is with only three years of service in the U.S. Senate, Obama was only marginally experienced in Beltway politics. He’d had little time to gain in-the-trenches experience, and not enough time to develop those political connections that all politics trade upon.
From this curmudgeon’s view, Obama is a brilliant man and a gifted orator, but he’s severely handicapped with the lack of seasoned political connections. In particular, he has no strong personal network in either the Senate or the House, his influence in both bodies coming from his status as President of the United States and the leader of his Party, but not from any close friendships or close working relationships with members of Congress.
Republicans knew that his lack of inside Washington connections would be his Achilles’ heel.
The GOP has isolated the President to a large degree. Because of his lack of insider knowledge and connections, Obama has little political capital to call upon. He has all the power a president could want, but less influence than he needs. Ted Kennedy might have helped him out, but Kennedy is gone, along with his political clout.
What about his connection to ex-president Clinton? Bill Clinton is still a major political force in this country, but he’s not in the Senate. As for Hillary, President Obama pulled her out of the Senate to become his very successful Secretary of State. History will have to judge the soundness of that decision.
The 2010 mid-term election was a watershed election for the Republican Party. Fifty-eight new hard-core, hardline Tea Party Representatives were elected to Congress, giving the GOP control of the House. 2010 also gave us John Boehner, a weak Speaker at best.
Boehner is no Tip O’Neal. Boehner has little or no control over his caucus, let alone the House. While he has tried on several occasions to compromise with the President, Tea Party Republicans have rejected every attempt.
We are left with a polarized House of Representatives at the extreme opposite edges of the political spectrum. Many call it “gridlock”; “democracy held hostage” might be a better description of what is happening.
Many believe that Obama is the reasonable side in these endless confrontations between Executive and Congress, but his approach of being out on the campaign trail too much is beginning to hurt his poll standings.
Obama needs to stay in Washington and deal with this polarized House of Representatives. His strategy of campaigning for the 2014 mid-term elections is a huge gamble. It’s beginning to cost him his high standing in the eyes of the voters. Voters want action on today’s issues, not perpetual campaigning for elections in the future.
Obama needs to acknowledge his lack of political capital and connections. Events like the dinner he hosted for 11 Republicans this week might mark a turn in his efforts to find the road to real leadership and meaningful compromise.
Larry Momo writes both for Politics at The Washington Times Communities, and the San Pedro News Pilot.
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