Interviews with dozens of members of Congress and senior aides reveal frustration and in some cases exasperation that a president who came from the Senate has no apparent appetite for cultivating relationships on Capitol Hill.Not even a Jackson on the nightstand. But there's more:
These Democrats say they almost never hear from Obama personally, haven’t been to the White House since Rahm Emanuel was still chief of staff and are mystified that the president passed over a popular legislative affairs aide for the job as top congressional liaison. One high-profile Democrat who recently spoke to a group of Hill Democrats came away stunned at their anger toward a president they hardly know.
Now, a confluence of events is raising the volume on the congressional complaints about this president. Just as Obama is detailing the considerable legislative lift he expects of Congress — everything from taxes and spending to guns to immigration to climate change — his campaign makes plans to morph into a political pressure group separate from the Democratic National Committee and the president himself takes to the pages of The New Republic to explain that he plans to spend his second term “in a conversation with the American people as opposed to just playing an insider game here in Washington.”There's a reason for this approach, of course. Obama isn't any damn good at governing in the traditional sense of the term. He's exceptional at campaigning, though. We got a look at that in Minneapolis yesterday, when Brother Obama's Traveling Salvation Show came through town:
President Obama brought his battle against gun violence to Minneapolis on Monday, praising the city for its efforts to reduce youth gunplay to an audience that included survivors of Minnesota gun tragedies.
"You've shown that progress is possible," Obama told an invited, sympathetic crowd at the Minneapolis Police Department's Special Operations Center in north Minneapolis, where he highlighted the city's success in reducing youth gun violence. In his first visit outside Washington, D.C., to promote his own anti-violence and gun-control agenda, Obama said the nation can make similar progress -- if the public demands it.
"The only way we can reduce gun violence in this country is if the American people decide it's important," Obama said. "We're not going to wait until the next Newtown, or the next Aurora," he added, referring to the massacre of schoolchildren in Connecticut and the gunman who shot up a theater full of moviegoers in Colorado.
It was the usual thing -- a backdrop of police officers, with very little opposition. Give the Star Tribune reporters some credit, since they did mention it was an "invited, sympathetic crowd." If you watched the local coverage on the news stations, it was the typical hagiography. Obama understands how to play the game.
The problem is that he's asking a lot of Democrats to cast votes that are going to be dangerous to their political health, especially on guns. And there are practical implications for the party beyond Obama, as Politico reminds us:
With 20 Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2014, seven of them from states the president lost, Obama’s fellow Democrats in the Capitol say they don’t need him and his political aides publicly pushing them as much as they want them to offer private reassurance and campaign help.Riddle me this -- if you are Mary Landrieu, or Mark Pryor, or Mark Begich, or Kay Hagan, how eager are you to cast a vote for gun control? Even Al Franken seems ambivalent at best about it. And can you blame these folks for feeling that way?
Obama doesn't care about this, of course. Why should he? The notion that he would turn his political campaign into a permanent feature of the political landscape shows that he doesn't much care about collegiality. He's not anything like Bill Clinton, who remains a traditional backslapping politician. We haven't seen a politician like Barack Obama before in my lifetime. And I tend to doubt that anyone else will be able to duplicate Obama's approach.