Meet the Press host Chuck Todd said President Obama has not formed relationships with any Republicans in Congress since he took office in 2009, which has contributed to the stalemate in Washington now.
“I can’t tell you how many interviews with people that no matter how loyal they were to President Obama would all come and say to me it’s amazing how much he does not like politics,” Todd said during a discussion about his book, The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House, at Politics and Prose.
“He loves campaigning. Campaign politics is one thing. Trust me, I love covering campaigns too. You know what I hate covering? Congress, right? And guess what he doesn’t like dealing with, right? The politics of Congress. And I always say this about the president: he has a very rational view about all this. He has a very rational view about politics. He thinks it’s sort of silly, the theatrics you have to go through,” he added.
Todd said Obama and the White House staff have a “lack of connectivity with Capitol Hill.” Todd cited George W. Bush as an example of a president who “went out of his way” to find a group of five Democratic senators to support items on his agenda.
“Obama didn’t need them. He felt like, ‘I’m going to reach out some and if they reach back, great, but if they don’t I don’t need them,’ and he was right,” Todd said. “But it put him in a position that on election night 2010, Republicans are winning the House of Representatives. Somebody at the White House says, ‘Mr. President, you ought to call John Boehner and congratulate him.’ It took him 30 minutes to find John Boehner’s cell phone. They didn’t have John Boehner’s cell phone.”
Todd said there are some “circumstance arguments” that can be made to explain Obama’s lack of outreach to the GOP.
“He came in with a crisis immediately. Yes, there was a group of Republicans who decided they were going to be, ‘no, no, no, it’s better to stay united, don’t hand him anything,’ but they had the ability not to have to hand him anything because they didn’t need to govern. They knew Democrats could govern without them,” Todd said.
“All of that two-year period, I would argue, put us in the position we’re in today where now we have, there’s no legislating happening, there’s no politics being practiced, it’s just sort of, they’re just making sure the government doesn’t shut down, I think,” he added.
In Todd’s opinion, the most misunderstood thing about Obama is he’s a much more cautious leader than people realize.
“I think temperament wise, it’s exactly the kind of characteristic people want in a president. I think his temperament is, I don’t know if we’ve had, I think Reagan, Eisenhower, Obama when it comes to presidential temperament. They don’t seem to ever lose their cool in a crisis,” he said.
Todd was asked about President Obama’s handling of healthcare reform.
“Healthcare, they made the decision, again, I think this is a case where Rahm Emanuel’s whole mindset as the first chief of staff was ‘we’re not going to make the same mistakes Bill Clinton made.’ I would argue a little overcorrecting. Well, one overcorrection was, ‘We’re not going to hand Congress a bill, let Congress write the bill.’ I think in hindsight they regret that,” Todd said.
“This bill is a mess. There’s a reason it’s in the front of the Supreme Court. It’s amazing how many people I have in here who were telling me stories, ‘we just assumed we could fix that in conference committee and we could do this here’ and all that stuff, so they allowed a lot of sloppy language and sloppy this and sloppy that to happen and they just let all these guys put whatever they wanted in it because they said we’ll clean it up in conference. Well, obviously that didn’t happen,” he added.
Todd said his biggest critique of the healthcare law is the Democrats essentially allowed the health insurance companies to write the legislation.
“I understand the political decision to do that but you’re never going to – and maybe the insurance companies will keep it from ever being repealed, right, because at the end of the day they’ve changed their entire business model but what have you got? What is it? At the end of the day, it’s the ‘Keep the Insurance Companies’ Industry Intact Act.’ They own it and obviously they want all these customers so I wonder if that’s something someday you’ll start hearing more and more Democrats second-guessing themselves on,” Todd said.
Todd was asked if writing such a critical book of Obama could hurt his objectivity as a journalist.
“You say it’s a critical book, I just say it’s a book. I say that because I think there’s a little bit of a Rorschach in it,” he said. “I think people read into it what they want to read into it to be honest. I am just trying to do an honest assessment.”