You know, I’ve been casually telling people that I thought Obama was in the end going to win the vote on Syria.
Because in these type of close votes on big issues, presidents usually can pull it out, getting enough of their own Party to salute the presidency with a “yea” vote while picking off a few of the loyal opposition in order to eke out a victory. Meanwhile, the president galvanizes the country behind him – or at least builds public support.
But then I started thinking seriously about it – that is, deciding what to tell you, my readers. It was then that the thought occurred to me:
Obama’s chickens are coming home to roost.
If this were Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, I’d think yeah, it will pass in the end. But not this guy. I can’t say that Obama’s motion to attack Syria will fail, but I can’t say it will pass either. Because Obama has acted very unpresidential for the past four and a half years.
Usually that would mean “undignified.” But in this case I mean that he has failed the basic test of the politician that a president must be – schmoozing members of Congress while staying in touch with the public on important issues.
You really get the feeling with this president that he’d rather be left alone in the Oval Office or on the golf course with his little friends than hang out with the riffraff from Capitol Hill. Obama lacks strong relationships there, even with his allies.
I covered both Bush and Clinton, and I’d constantly see a line of lawmakers’ cars parked on the West Wing driveway while their owners hashed something out with the president in the Oval Office. With Obama, the driveway is always nice, tidy and empty.
Obama has ignored his homework. He failed to sow the seeds of trust and friendship. And now, suddenly, he wants something. “The president is on line one,” congressional aides around Capitol Hill will be saying over the next week to their bosses. For many members, it will be their first serious chat with him. And, they’ll figure, probably their last.
A fascinating thing to do is to listen to the Oval Office tapes of Lyndon Johnson. He can be heard in endless phone calls alternatively buttering up and ordering around lawmakers and various other members of the Washington establishment with an ease that suggests he knows the people he’s speaking with, understands what levers to pull, and enjoys what he’s doing.
Listen to this small example as he all but orders then-Congressman Gerald Ford to serve on the Warren Commission that would investigate John F. Kennedy’s assassination. In just 90 seconds you can discern Johnson’s thorough understanding of Congress and infer the numerous relationships he has there.
Like him or not, Johnson got a lot of legislation passed. Obama could never make a phone call like this.
Meanwhile, Obama hasn’t bothered to talk much to the public about national security over the years, about the dangers we still face and the continued need for military action. Instead, he’s downplayed the war on terror and focused instead on, I don’t know, college education for the masses. And now he’ll be back to us Tuesday night asking for us to support a possible war. And he’ll wonder how people could possibly be perplexed.
We used to require a couple of years of experience of presidential candidates before we leased them the White House. Obama was elected having proven nothing about himself to the public other than an ability to get elected and write autobiographies. And now we see he is entirely bereft of the skills needed to function effectively as president.
He had the momentum of an election at his back to help him achieve, barely, his one real accomplishment – Obamacare. But now he’s in danger of being seriously undermined as president and commander in chief by what would be a politically catastrophic loss in Congress on Syria.
It’s a fight he should win, because it’s awfully difficult for Congress to defy the president on national security matters. But he might well lose, because his chickens are coming home to roost.