The Job Can Wait: Obama Has Better Things To Do

March 17, 2011

President Chooses to Do Nothing to Solve Deficit Problem or World Crises as Re-Election and Foreign Travel Beckon

As Democrats fail to agree to a plan to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year and world crises escalate in Japan, Libya and Bahrain, President Obama has faced heightening criticism for his “do nothing” approach to the job he was elected to do:


“With Japan’s nuclear crisis teetering on the verge of catastrophe, with Libya and Bahrain in violent turmoil, and with financial markets crashing in response, President Barack Obama has been adamantly sticking to his own political and policy playbook.” (Glenn Thrush and Josh Gerstein, “World Events Test ‘No Drama Obama’,”Politico, 3/16/2011)


OBAMA ABSENT ON DEFICIT REDUCTION: “Senate Democrats wonder if or when the White House will take the reins in a budget fight that has several of their vulnerable colleagues in a vise.” (Shane D’Aprile, “Parting Ways: President’s Path Is Diverging from Senate Democrats,” The Hill, 3/14/2011)


BIPARTISAN FRUSTRATION WITH OBAMA’S LACK OF LEADERSHIP: “When President Barack Obama opened the first meeting of his fiscal commission last April, he promised to be ‘standing with them’ as they produced recommendations for curbing the nation’s escalating debt.

“Republicans and Democrats say they are still waiting…


Obama’s reluctance to join the debate in a sustained way has provoked rising frustration among lawmakers from both parties, who are speaking more forcefully about what they view as his absenteeism on one of the most pressing issues before them.” (Carrie Budoff Brown, “Obama Ducking Deficit Debate,”Politico, 3/14/2011)


In a feeble attempt to react to this criticism, the White House suggested that the crisis in Japan, a looming government shutdown and the turmoil in Libya are all just the latest “issue[s] of the day” and that he has better things to do:


“Call it an above-the-fray strategyfrom spending reductions to state labor disputes — President Barack Obama is keeping a low profile


“‘There is a very strong gravitational pull in this town to try to drag the president to every single political skirmish and news story,’ said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer.

“Pfeiffer said Obama has enough issues on his agenda and said the White House doesn’t believe the public wants the president weighing in on an array of subjects.

‘They want him leading the country; they don’t want him serving as a cable commentator for the issue of the day,’ he said.” (Jim Kuhnhenn, “On High-Profile Issues, Obama Keeps Low Profile,” Associated Press, 3/14/2011)


One of those “better things to do” appears to be concentrating on getting re-elected:


WHITE HOUSE STRATEGY DRIVEN BY ELECTION MESSAGING: “That has meantmuscling past the red-siren headlines to hammer away at the jobs-and-education message that will be the centerpiece of his 2012 campaign, the kind of discipline that is a hallmark of his new senior adviser, David Plouffe.”(Glenn Thrush and Josh Gerstein, “World Events Test ‘No Drama Obama’,” Politico, 3/16/2011)


OBAMA OVERTURES TO LEFT AIMED AT SHORING UP LIBERAL BASE AHEAD OF 2012: “Obama advisers have stepped up their outreach to liberal activists, and the so-called ‘professional left’ that then-White House press secretary Robert Gibbs derided last year has been focusing more on potential GOP White House hopefuls.


“In 2010, there was a lot of chatter in Washington about Obama being challenged from the left in the Democratic presidential primary. But that, too, has dissipated as potential candidates, including ex-Sen. Russ Feingold (Wis.) and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, have ruled out such a bid…


“‘It’s a little unclear to me what the strategy of the White House is,’ said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), who was one of the leading Democratic critics of the tax-cut deal late last year. ‘Everything is obviously aimed at the election in 2012, and every once in a while I have some questions about that.‘”


WHITE HOUSE MOBILIZING FOR APRIL RE-ELECTION ANNOUNCEMENT:“President Barack Obama’s advisors are telling potential donors that he is in a weaker position heading into the 2012 election than he was in 2008 and are detailing potential vulnerabilities of likely opponents, according to people who have seen their presentation.


The donor meetings and the recent hiring of several senior campaign staff members are among the early moves Obama aides have made before the official launch of the president’s re-election effort, which Democratic officials say will come shortly after April 1.” (Carol Lee, “Donors Told Obama Is in a Weaker Position,” The Wall Street Journal, 3/14/2011)


ATTENDS MONDAY FUNDRAISER FOR DNC: The White House might deny that President Obama is thinking about the 2012 election, but he’s clearly shifted into campaign mode.” (Matt Negrin, “DNC Grabs Obama to Raise Cash,” Politico, 3/14/2011)


ATTENDS WEDNESDAY FUNDRAISER FOR DNC: “It’s hard to tell whether President Obama is focused more this week on his education agenda or raising money for Democrats.

“For the second time this week, Obama will shift into campaign mode for the Democratic National Committee, driving again to a Washington hotel for a ‘DNC event,’ as the White House describes it.” (Matt Negrin, “DNC Hosts Obama Again for ‘Event’,” Politico, 3/16/2011)


In addition to campaigning, Obama has managed to find plenty of time for himself even as his administration faces an escalating budget debate and various international crises:


OBAMA WON’T DELAY BRAZIL TRIP FOR GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN, BUT DELAYED ASIA TRIP FOR OBAMACARE: “The crisis in Japan, the unresolved budget wars at home and continuing unrest in the Middle East have raised questions about whether President Obama will continue with business as usual on his trip to Latin America this weekend

“Asked by The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler whether it was ‘awkward’ for Obama to go to Latin America while ‘the rest of the world is exploding,’ Carney, a little piqued, dismissed the question.

“‘Laura, he’s the president of the United States,’ he said. ‘And there are major issues all the time that the president has to contend with, which is one of the reasons why he has such a substantial support framework around him when he travels.’…

“Still, the White House has canceled Obama’s travel plans before for what it considered important domestic affairs. He twice postponed planned visits to Indonesia and Australia last year – first to oversee the passage of the health care bill, and a few months later as the BP oil leak grabbed the country’s attention.” (Abby Philip, “Amid Crises, Obama Still Plans to Fly,” Politico, 3/15/2011)


BUT OBAMA PLANS TO TOUR RIO DE JANEIRO: “The Obama family will also take in the sights in Rio. A trip to Corcovado mountain, where the Christ the Redeemer statue stands (France gave us Lady Liberty, gave Brazil Jesus) is supposedly on the itinerary.” (Kenneth Rapoza, “Obama Heads to Rio Sunday; Maximum Security Awaits,” Forbes, 3/14/2011)

SITS DOWN WITH ESPN TO TALK ABOUT NCAA BRACKET: “Even before President Barack Obama announced his NCAA March Madness picks, he made it clear there was one team he was especially keen on: Pitt.” (Patrick Gavin, “Obama Thinks Pittsburgh Panthers Look Good,” Politico, 3/15/2011)


PLAYING GOLF AND BREWING BEER: “The President – who admits to more than a passing fondness for the game – has managed to rack up 60 games since he was elected president in 2008.


“With spring in the air he was spotted back on the course this weekend, at the same time it was revealed he has become the first president to produce White House beer.” (Paul Thompson, “Keeping Busy, Mr. President? Obama Heads Out for his 60thGame of Golf Since Reaching the White House…As He Also Takes Up Brewing His Own Beer,” The Daily Mail, 3/7/2011)


BUT AT LEAST HE’S KEEPING BUSY: “In the past week, as the budget negotiations, the deteriorating situation in Libya and the Japan crisis have been big issues one, two, and three, the president has found time for not just bracket picks and a DNC fundraiser but the bullying summita ceremony with the Chicago Blackhawks, a round of golf, the Gridiron dinner, a meeting with ‘student finalists of the Intel Science Talent Search 2011 competition’, a speech at a school in Arlington, a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen of Denmark in the Oval Office, discussing ‘the close ties between the United States and Denmark,’ and  a weekly presidential address focusing on ‘Women’s History Month.’ Wednesday he’s got another fundraiser.” (Jim Geraghty, “If You Can’t Hack It, Shift Your Focus to the Bracket?”, National Review, 3/16/2011)