The man who wasn't there: Obama and the 2014 midterms
President Obama is the most inconsequential man in America, at least when it comes to the 2014 midterms. Every week we have further confirmation that rigor mortis is settling on his presidency. Indeed, he is not just politically ineffective but also useless or harmful to his own party. Comes the report:
President Barack Obama will be all but absent from the Democratic campaign trail this midterm election season, appearing in just seven campaign rallies in blue-leaning states before Election Day Nov. 4. [Time]
That's it? The man who organized the "greatest" campaign of all time, the man with the golden speechmaking ability, is now hustled into a single Senate race in Michigan? And then placed next to a few gubernatorial candidates stumping between Pennsylvania and Maine? Yes, it's come to that sad end.
The Democratic Senate candidate from Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is running against the man considered by the Democratic base to be an obstructionist in chief, would rather humiliate herself with absurd work-arounds than admit in public that she voted for Barack Obama for president.
Of course, it should be admitted that Obama has faced unremitting and unusual opposition from GOP lawmakers. But the public has not punished Republicans for this at all, certainly not in the way they once punished the infamous "do-nothing" Congress that Truman turned the tables on. The total lack of action in the second term, the sheer lifelessness of the administration — on guns, climate change, and immigration — has to be disheartening to true believers.
The entire second term has been defined by events that are largely outside the president's control or set in motion in the first term. The hysteria of opposition has subsided somewhat as an economic recovery slowly restores more Americans to work. But even that cheering fact does nothing to stem the ever-growing economic stratification of American society.
Even in his foreign policy, Obama only got the intervention he desired in Syria a year after he argued for it, and not because of any new argument, but because the gruesome deeds of ISIS made the poll numbers flip. This intervention was achieved absent any involvement of Congress, which managed to shirk its own constitutional responsibilities while avoiding the president. Arguably, it was the opposite of the intervention he wanted, since now he is fighting Assad's enemies rather than assisting in Assad's overthrow.
Not only has Obama betrayed his promise not to begin hostilities without congressional approval, he's also revoked America's withdrawal from Iraq and involved the nation in another uncertain war.
Naturally, this listlessness infects everything. Obama's approval ratings have just hit the lowest of his presidency, at 40 percent.
Thirty-five percent of Americans approve of his handling of the threat from ISIL, the terrorist group that the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against in Iraq and Syria. His net negative 16-point rating on ISIL is down 22 points from the end of September, when 50 percent of Americans approved of his handling of ISIL. [Politico]
It is actually hard to detect an actual toxicity in the numbers. It is more an embarrassment of indifference.
For years conservatives like me have criticized the executive branch as an overgrown monstrosity, one that had long ago exceeded its constitutional remit. It has so dominated political life in America, that it began exerting a gravitational pull of its own, drawing the powers of the other branches to itself. And surely, Obama wields a great deal of power. He makes war as he likes; he can put Americans on a kill list and drone them in other countries; his intelligence agencies can deliver your emails to him; and he can selectively enforce laws on immigration or marriage.
It is amazing that with all that power, he still can't ingratiate himself to his own party or the public.