15 March 2013

Obama's Sui Generis Charm Tour Does Less Than Impress

This week, the Obama White House engaged in a concerted charm offensive on Capitol Hill, seeking to thaw relations with legislators who are giving him a cold shoulder and not passing the Obama Administration’s second term agenda, whatever that is exactly.  Mr. Obama expected his four meetings over three days to lay the foundation for some sort of Grand Bargain.  

The Grand Bargain language seemed to have been the buzz following the fancy dinner at the Jefferson Hotel which Senator John McCain (R-AZ)  and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) facilitated last week but was overshadowed by Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) blockbuster filibuster. 

While Mr. Obama was warmly received by both Republicans and Democrats, including a standing ovation from the Grand Old Party, there does not appear to be headway in reaching consensus on legislation.  If one wonders why Mr. Obama’s outreach efforts were not successful, it would be wise to consider three countervailing currents coming from President Obama.

During the hour long meeting with Republicans,  Mr. Obama spoke about compromise on fiscal issues.  But once again, Mr. Obama’s charming redefinition of compromise puts the onus of giving ground only on those who disagree with the President’s positions.  And on fiscal issues, the sine qua non seems to be Republicans raising taxes (again).

Democrats were not spared President Obama’s particular charm.  President Obama met with Capitol Hill Democrats.  At that closed door meeting, Freshman Congressman Dan Kildee (D-MI 5th), the legacy of 17 term Congressman Dale Kildee (who was coincidentally representing MI 5th), asked a long winded question regarding economic development for his depressed Flint district.

 Mr. Obama did not appreciate Kildee representing his district’s interests.  So President Obama chose to sarcastically respond: “I can tell you’re a freshman because you didn’t pay much attention to the State of the Union,” Obama joked. “I talked about that.”  Charming.

If truth mattered, the joke would be on Obama, as Kildee had just been briefed by White House legislative affairs  staffers about the innovation centers which the President spoke of during the State of the Union. Of course, the State of the Union speech alluded to 15 innovation centers but gave no details aside from the $1 billion price tag to American taxpayers ( or more likely adding to the nearly $17 Trillion deficit).  

Mr. Obama’s glib rebuff of Kildee is reminiscent of an old adage–with “friends” like that, who needs enemies?

A third example of President Obama’s sui generis charm working against his best interests involves White House tours. President Obama chose to implement the sequester to maximize pain through all of the Executive Branch agencies.  What really incensed the public was the cancellation of school tours of the White House supposedly due to Sequestration cuts in the rate of Federal budgetary growth.  

After a bunch of bad press, the Obama Administration looked for ways to relent.  But as he retreated from his scorched earth Sequestration strategy, a petulant President Obama blamed the Secret Service for disappointing student tourists.  Really?    Now that White House tours might be spared, the Lamestream Media is trumpeting the charge that Sequestration might cancel the Independence Day concert and fireworks on the National Mall. 

Pope Francis' impromptu visit to St. Mary Major
This week in the Vatican, the Papal Conclave elected Buenos Aires Archbishop Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergogio as Pope Francis.   Many observers wondered why the College of Cardinals chose a 76 year old pontiff.  But the simple charm of the humble Jesuit (not necessarily a contradiction in terms) as the Vicar of Christ endeared himself to the faithful.  Moreover, the fact that Pope Francis walks the talk by being modest, striving to build bridges yet being firm on bedrock principles is the affirmative orthodoxy which secular leaders should quickly adopt.

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