The PJ Tatler

The Burden of Abdication


Matthew Continetti reports on a recent dinner President Barack Obama enjoyed in Italy, keeping his hosts up damn near all night because he wouldn’t quit talking:


The next morning, during a briefing, the president—whose office holds a burden of responsibility matched only by its power—regretted that his job involved duties other than pretentious conversation with extremely wealthy famous people. “One aide paraphrased Obama’s response: ‘Just last night I was talking about life and art, big interesting things, and now we’re back to the minuscule things of politics.” You know, minuscule things like the maskirovka invasion of Ukraine, the implementation of Obamacare, scandals at the IRS and Department of Veterans Affairs, negotiations with Syria and Iran, withdrawal from Afghanistan. These subjects are far too small and mundane for our president. He prefers contemplative and thoughtful and nuanced symposia on philosophy, quantum mechanics, and how best to spend inheritances—all accompanied by Tuscan wine.

According to Politico, Obama’s Italian dinner party illustrates the paradox of his second term. “Stymied at home and abroad, Obama recognizes that he is less in control of the Washington agenda than ever in his presidency,” write Budoff Brown and Epstein. “Yet his newfound realism has also given him a palpable sense of liberation.” I find nothing paradoxical about Obama’s recent pattern of behavior, nothing mysterious about the golfing, partying, traveling. It is quite obvious: Obama has given up.


It must be very frustrating.

Put yourself in Obama’s shoes. All your life you’ve gotten ahead without ever having to do very much, with doors opened for you because of your race, or your eloquence, and because of your willingness to allow others to do some very dirty electioneering on your behalf. Your first two years as president, thanks to supermajorities in both houses, are a simple exercise in doing pretty much whatever the hell you want to this country you don’t much like. But then came the GOP House and foreign leaders who have had enough time to figure you out, and suddenly you find yourself stymied at every turn, and giving a nice speech or getting some opponent’s divorce records unsealed is no longer enough to get you what you want.

Being president, some internet jerk once said, is hard.

It’s enough to make you wonder if Obama went to such damaging lengths to rescue Bowe Bergdahl because he feels protective of the young soldier who managed so completely to ditch his duties.

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