After reading Bob Woodward’s take on how Barack Obama’s leadership style nearly led to total fiscal disaster, the word “gap” may be too mild. “Total lack of leadership” may be appropriate.
Woodward’s reporting in his new book, “The Price of Politics,” reveals a president whom he said lacked the “stamina” in turning personal relationships with congressional leaders into action the way some of his predecessors have done.
“President Clinton, President Reagan. And if you look at them, you can criticize them for lots of things. They by and large worked their will,” Woodward told Sawyer.”On this, President Obama did not.”
“Now, some people are going to say he was fighting a brick wall, the Republicans in the House and the Republicans in Congress. Others will say it’s the president’s job to figure out how to tear down that brick wall. In this case, he did not.”
Is it “stamina” or something else at work here? We learned from the New York Times last week that Obama shows all kinds of stamina over serious, weighty matters like improving his bowling and golf scores.
Asked if Obama simply wasn’t ready for the job of being president, Woodward responded:
“I am not ducking this. I am weighing evidence, and there’s evidence that he got on top of a lot of things, he did a lot of things. And there’s evidence that there are gaps,” he said. “He did not fix this.”
Woodward places particular blame for the failure to reach a deal with Obama, writing that the seeds of discord were planted early in his administration. He displayed “two sides” of his personality in early meetings with congressional leaders, Woodward said.
“There’s this divided-man quality to President Obama always. Initially he meets with the congressional leaders, he says you know, ‘We’re going to be accommodating, we’re going to listen, we’re going to talk, we’re going to compromise,” Woodward said.
“But then they — Republicans ask some questions and challenge him a little bit and he says, ‘Look I won. I’m in charge here,’ ” Woodward continued. “And the Republicans feel totally isolated and ostracized. And this was the beginning of a war.”
Woodward faults Obama for his early attitude toward Republicans — “I won” — creating alienation. That’s certainly a factor. Then, there is the arrogance: Slamming the Supreme Court for Citizens United while they’re seated in front of him, and ripping Paul Ryan to his face as well. These aren’t the actions of someone who intends to unite people who disagree. Obama now admits that he shouldn’t have gone after Ryan, whom he calls “Jack Ryan” in a new interview.
That’s either a slip or a tell: Jack Ryan was the strong Republican who was poised to win the Illinois Senate seat until his sealed divorce records magically went public, destroying his candidacy and handing that race to a then unknown: Barack Obama. Someone who has profited so mightily from the politics of personal destruction is unlikely to stop, despite what he says now about how awful it all is.
The bottom line on all this is that Barack Obama lacked the necessary experience to handle and lead important negotiations. He nearly wrecked the country thanks to his inexperience, his arrogance and his rigidness on ideology. Four more years promise no improvement. Faced with a more Republican Congress in a potential second term, Obama is likely to spend his time doubling down on policies that have already failed, and forcing more bad policies through via fiat and regulation.