Scott Wilson has an interesting article in the Washington Post today about President Barack Obama’s political troubles and how they may be connected to his dislike for retail politics at any level–he never stays on a rope line for more than 15 minutes, big donors are shocked by how little face time they get, and he delegates the management of Congress to Vice President Joe Biden. Members of Congress are getting a lot more sleep than back in Lyndon Johnson’s day–there are no more “Senator So-and-So, this is your President” calls at 2 a.m.
But then, they’re apparently not the only ones getting plenty of rest. Obama’s schedule shows striking deference to his children’s schedule and needs–but remember how we all laughed and laughed at President Ronald Reagan and “Mommie” being in their jammies by 7 p.m. to watch re-runs of Little House on the Prairie? I’m not convinced that Obama’s days are significantly longer:
Where Clinton worked a room until he met everyone, Obama prefers to shake a few hands, offer brief remarks and head home to spend the night in the residence, so he can have breakfast with his girls the next morning and send them off to school. That may be good for his mental health, but it’s a challenge for those in the reelection campaign assigned to manage the whims of big donors.
Unlike Obama, Clinton reveled in not only the strategy of politics, but also its personal elements. To his advisers’ chagrin, he sought advice far outside the White House and outside the Democratic Party. He lobbied intensively for his legislation. Emanuel once recalled being awoken at 3 a.m. by a phone call from Clinton, who wanted another list of on-the-fence members of Congress he could call to secure passage of his crime bill. (Emanuel pointed out the time, then gave him the names.)
After hours, Obama prefers his briefing book and Internet browser, a solitary preparation he undertakes each night after Sasha and Malia go to bed.
Sure makes those late-night Clinton administration pizza parties and college-style bull sessions look a little bit better in retrospect, no? It seems to me that in the case of the U.S. Presidency, being well-rested is something that can wait until retirement.
In any case, go read the whole Wilson article–it’s worth it. I thought that this section of the storyabout conflicts among Obama’s inner circle of advisors was especially interesting:
And within the White House, a divide grew between those who helped engineer the president’s victory and those who joined the administration during the transition. The newcomers thought policy was being developed in a political vacuum, and they watched many of the administration’s proposals have a difficult time moving forward, even in a House and a Senate with large Democratic majorities.
To veterans of the campaign, though, it was more a matter of Washington not understanding the leadership upgrade that had just taken place. “He’s playing chess in a town full of checkers players,” a senior adviser and campaign veteran told me in the first months of the administration. Obama had a “different metabolism,” the aide explained.
“It’s not cockiness,” the adviser added, “it’s confidence.”
Can you believe this guy? (And yes, I’m pretty sure it was a guy.) “It was more a matter of Washington not understanding the leadership upgrade that had just taken place.” To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, “you have to govern with the town you’ve got, not the town you wish you had.” What a delusional–I mean “confident”–a$$hole. Compare this to a famous anecdote Ron Suskind related in 2004 from his research on the Bush Administration for The Price of Loyalty:
In the summer of 2002, after I had written an article in Esquire that the White House didn’t like about Bush’s former communications director, Karen Hughes, I had a meeting with a senior adviser to Bush. He expressed the White House’s displeasure, and then he told me something that at the time I didn’t fully comprehend — but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency.
The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”
What can I say? Democratic a$$holes are just as faith-based and delusional as Republican a$$holes, only they seem to be less politically successful.