Maybe I’ve been watching too many of those ubiquitous short-order cooking shows on television, but you get my drift. The president’s problem is a lack of attentiveness to detail and a penchant for constant campaigning. He seems more comfortable in crowds than with those one-on-one confrontations necessary for good governance.
The “bully pulpit” can get a person only so far. Then it takes down-and-dirty, head-knocking, nose-to-nose face-offs and trades. It’s hard work, and — in the partisan war zone this town increasingly has become — it requires a willingness to use both compromise and threats. As a former community organizer, Obama should have developed some of the skills necessary for just such a fight. He obviously hasn’t.
Big ideas are great, but without a sense of practicality they remain just ideas. It’s important to know what is achievable and what isn’t. With this president, the result so far has been a domestic wasteland.
Debate over immigration, transportation, education and a half dozen other major issues has been displaced by constant warfare over the Affordable Care Act. Problems mount daily, and now the specter of fraud looms over the giant program even in its startup phase as bunko artists reportedly try to take advantage of the confusion to sign up applicants with phony policies and identity theft.
As Obama winds down his fifth year in office, the window for historic accomplishment is quickly closing. The next year or so will define his presidency as either mediocre or high up in the pantheon of the office. It will not be enough to have the distinction of being the first of his race to hold it. Obama’s chances for making his lofty goals a reality eventually will give way, leaving him to preside over the chaotic scramble to replace him and his party in the 2014 and 2016 elections.
If one needs evidence of his refusal to pay attention to detail, consider the fact that he almost single handedly cost his party the governorship of Virginia. A 10-point lead by Democrat Terry McAuliffe all but disappeared in the 10 days before the election in a landslide of protest over Obama’s continuing inability to get things straight about the lethal small stuff in the Affordable Care Act. And that’s despite the fact his Republican opponent was carrying more baggage than a member of the railroad porter’s union.
It became abundantly clear that even the president himself had no clue about the ramifications of this 2,700-page monstrosity.
Millions of Americans were receiving notice from their insurance companies that they would have to give up their current policies despite the president’s campaign promises to the contrary. All this was taking place as Virginians were preparing to head for the polls and the Republican candidate made the best of it.
Obama and the Democrats who helped him foolishly tried to overhaul 18 percent of the economy without public or bipartisan political support. They now face the prospect of losing the advantage over the GOP brought about by the enormous political shortcomings of the radical tea party wing.
As a 50-year veteran of this burg’s seemingly never-ending political battles, I have watched in total wonder the administration’s health care debacles and what it has done to the body politic. Mistakes made by the president and his novice staff continue to mount. Allowing the unrestrained drafting of the reform and then its passage without Republican input or support damned it from the start. Not one single vote was cast for it by the Republicans, making it a one-party act despite its enormous scope and disruption — a historic first.
The next 12 months before the midterm elections are going to be a continuation of the fight over the program’s failings.
Good luck with explaining that, Mr. President, as you stump the country.
Dan K. Thomasson is former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.