Obama can ignore journalist’s advice

March 4, 2010


— In the space of 10 days, thanks in no small part to my own newspaper, The Washington Post, the president of the United States has been portrayed as a weakling and a chronic screw-up who is wrecking his administration despite everything that his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, can do to make things right.

This remarkable fiction began unfolding on Feb. 21 in the Post op-ed column of my friend Dana Milbank, who wrote that “Obama’s first year fell apart in large part because he didn’t follow his chief of staff’s advice on crucial matters. Arguably, Emanuel is the only person keeping Obama from becoming Jimmy Carter,” i.e., a one-term failure.

A week later, presumably the same anonymous sources convinced Milbank to pronounce that Obama “too often plays the 98-pound weakling; he gets sand kicked in his face and responds with moot-court zingers.”

And on Tuesday, the Post led the paper with a purported news story by Jason Horowitz saying that a president with Obama’s “detached, professorial manner” needed “a political enforcer” like Emanuel to have a chance of succeeding, “because he (Emanuel) possessed a unique understanding of the legislative mind.” Unfortunately, the story said, “influential Democrats are — in unusually frank terms — blaming Obama and his closest campaign aides for not listening to Emanuel.”

It sounded, for all the world, like the kind of orchestrated leaks that often precede a forced resignation in Washington. Except that the chief of staff doesn’t usually force the president out. When George H.W. Bush had had enough of John H. Sununu, of course it was Sununu who walked. Maybe the sources on these stories think Obama is the one who should leave.

Here in a few paragraphs is what others high in the White House think is going on:

The underlying problem, in their eyes, is a badly damaged economy that has sunk Obama’s poll numbers and emboldened Republicans to blockade his legislative program.

Emanuel, who left a leadership post in the House to serve his fellow Chicagoan, Obama, has worked loyally for the president, and is not suspected personally by his colleagues of inspiring these Post pieces.

But, as one of them said to me, “Rahm likes to win,” and when the losses began to pile up, he probably vented his frustrations to some of his old pals in Congress. It’s clear that some of them are talking to the press.

There are good grounds for questioning the legislative strategy and tactics of this White House — just as there have been with other administrations. A president who sets out to engineer large-scale changes in basic economic, social and legal structures at the same time he is fighting two wars and dealing with the fallout from a fiscal calamity is risking defeat. Obama has courted that risk knowingly because he thinks — as I do — the nation really is in peril. His party in Congress and its leadership are too often more narrow-minded and parochial than the president. And the Republicans have chosen the easy path of near-unanimous opposition.

None of this would rise above the level of petty Washington gossip, except that some of Emanuel’s friends are so eager to exonerate him that they are threatening to undermine the president. Milbank, presumably reflecting what he hears, calls Obama “airy and idealistic” and says he readily succumbs to “bullying” from Republicans and Democrats alike. I hope the mullahs in Iran don’t believe this.

From too many years of covering politics, I have come to believe as Axiom One that the absolute worst advice politicians ever receive comes from journalists who fancy themselves great campaign strategists.

Milbank now is urging Obama to emulate Gordon Brown, who is probably just weeks away from being voted out as Britain’s prime minister, and start bullying people himself. That is — well, it’s in the great tradition.

— David Broder is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. davidbroder@washpost.com


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 2 months ago

Emanuel will do whatever it takes to keep the corporate gravy flowing. He's a poster boy for the big money that so corrupts our politics.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 2 months ago

Trouble in paradise, get the Jiffy Pop.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

The larger problem is what republicans Bush/Cheney left behind aka the worst in 75 years. It would take magic to fix this problem before 2012.

Between the Reagan/Bush home loan scandal and the Bush/Cheney home loan scandal the job market as it was has never fully recovered. Of course sending millions of USA jobs abroad is the second layer of icing on the cake.

It is obvious that the republican strategy is to pretend that republicans do not specialize in destruction of USA economies however the documented history reveals there is an established pattern.

The other strategy is to pretend that another administration is the problem because the economy simply cannot be repaired in 90 days,112 days,180 days 270 days nor 365 days.

The party simply knows little to nothing about economics much less displaying any management talent.

Simply put the current republican party is an economic disaster. Criminal thinking is so deeply embedded in their philosophy.

And the democrats need to say screw this bogus repub party and make some right decisions.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

Look according to radio news on Thursday 15 million in the USA are out of work.

If the USA does not bring the troops home this economy will be screwed for a longer period of time.

That needless military action is killing this economy in addition to the republican led financial scandals.

This war is costing as we speak several trillion dollars due to the heavy load of disabled soldiers coming home. We cannot afford the war.

We cannot afford the private army that Bush/Cheney brought on board. Over 100,000 mercenaries at about $3,000 per day. Have we lost out ability to think?

Radio news is not optimistic about the future of this economy because no new industry has been created to speak of in the last 30 years.

30 years ago is when Reagnanomics began sending OUR jobs abroad. Millions more are slated for INDIA.

Where is the outrage?

Flap Doodle 8 years, 2 months ago

What will Dear Leader do when he runs out of federal judge gigs to use as bribes to Congressmen?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.