The right noticed long ago that Obama is a cold fish and an arrogant loner, a man willing to abandon longtime mentors in the blink of an eye if need be (think Jeremiah Wright). It never seemed as though Democrats cared, though, as long as Obama served their purposes and they served his.
Now that he’s become a little bit of an embarrassment to them, Obama may find, perhaps for the first time in his life, that a number of his fellow liberals are willing to throw him under the bus. Not only does there seem to be a new willingness for at least some members of the MSM to report negative news about Obama, but there’s a reservoir of ill will among Democratic politicians that’s been building up and threatens to burst:
One Democrat who likes Obama and has been around town for many years said elected officials in his own party are no different than Republicans: they think the president is distant and unapproachable.
“He has never taken the Democratic chairs up to Camp David to have a drink or to have a discussion,” the longtime Washingtonian said. “You gotta stroke people, and talk to them. It’s like courting: you have to send flowers and candy and have surprises. It’s a constant process. Now they’re saying, ‘He never talked to me in the good times.’ ”
How is it that Obama can be such a successful politician and yet be so unable to exhibit an important quality that almost all such politicians possess in abundance: the ability to schmooze? Special dispensation because of race may be part of the answer, but only a small part. Superficial charm is another, but it can only get him so far, and even his fellow party members have now learned its limitations.
What they haven’t yet learned is the significance of another major part of the Obama resume, which is that he does not operate on the usual political system of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” Instead, he’s just as likely to thank you by sticking a shiv (metaphorically speaking, that is) in your back.
And this is not a recent development. It was Obama’s modus operandi from the start, and it was practiced on Democrats. In Chicago, where Obama’s political career began, the important game was to win the Democratic primary, because that would guarantee election in Obama’s hugely Democratic district. The way Obama managed to do this in his very first race was by obliterating his Democratic rivals on a technicality, and especially, by betraying his liberal Democratic mentor, Alice Palmer.
If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s well worth reading to get a key to the very special Obama ruthlessness. The gist of it is that newcomer Obama, after being tapped by established Chicago African-American politician Alice Palmer to be her successor, mounted legal challenges to the petitions of all his Democratic rivals (including, it turns out, Palmer), knocking them off the primary ballot on technicalities and running unopposed, thereby guaranteeing his own victory before the voting ever began.
Obama won his first race for office not because of his intra-party collegiality, but due to his lack of it. Thus, when he got to the Illinois Senate his reputation preceded him and his potential for power was acknowledged. He seems to have adopted the Machiavellian strategy that it is better to be feared than loved:
“[Obama's] introduction to the political community was that he knocked off Alice,” said Ron Davis, a longtime Obama political hand who filed the challenge against Palmer and still cackles with glee over their victory…So they heard about Barack before he came down there to Springfield: Who was this guy who came in and knocked Alice off the ballot?’”
In addition, Obama later acquired a new mentor, Illinois state Senate President Emil Jones (previously allied with Palmer, but willing to make the switch), who understood that power and helped Obama after Democrats got control of the state Senate by handing him legislation that had been developed by other Democrats and letting Obama take the credit. This helped to further pave the way for Obama’s success:
In the State Senate, Jones did something even more important for Obama. He pushed him forward as the key sponsor of some of the Party’s most important legislation, even though the move did not sit well with some colleagues who had plugged away in the minority on bills that Obama now championed as part of the majority.
Taking credit for the work of others doesn’t make you many friends, but it can help you to get ahead, and Obama rode the record of his “achievements” all the way to the U.S. Senate, and then of course to the White House. There seemed to be no negative career consequences to it all, and Obama learned that seeming to be a superior being, above the hoi polloi, while simultaneously playing ruthless hardball, was a stance that suited both his natural temperament and his purposes.
But it finally may be — accent on the “may” — that Obama has found the limits of this particular approach. Now that the triple threat of the Benghazi, IRS, and AP scandals has come to haunt him, he may discover that his inability to cultivate positive relationships outside of a very few close, similarly insular, and trusted advisors such as Valerie Jarrett will finally have a cost. As Richard Fernandez of Belmont Club succinctly put it, the formerly worshipful press has had an especially hard awakening in learning of the Obama administration’s acquisition of AP phone records:
…[I]f the administration could do that to its water-carriers then what was the point to being his friend?…
Nobody completely trusts reassurances from a double-crosser. Only a fool would accept a kiss from Judas.
But it’s not as though Obama has only recently turned into a Judas, and members of the press in particular should have known he was fully capable of that all along. After all, the article describing how Obama got his start was written in 2007, and the events themselves had occurred over a decade earlier. The press either did not do its homework, or for some reason just thought it could never happen to them. Republicans can have the pleasure of being able to say “I told you so,” but it’s cold comfort, because too much damage has been done to the nation already, and we have three and a half long years ahead of us that promise to feature more of the same.