November 28, 2013

There are reports that President Obama has turned introspective lately and that he has been more reflective than usual. In this post I will attempt to reflect on his new reflectiveness. After all, readers will need to take naps after all the holiday feasting. I hope this helps.

President Obama (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
President Obama (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

The president said something recently that I believe was interesting and underreported.‎ At a Democratic campaign fundraiser, the president said he was “not a particularly ideological person.” Assuming he meant it, that was a remarkable thing to say, given that Republicans think of him as a classic liberal ideologue. How did so many get the wrong idea? The president doesn’t see an ideological bent in his actions; he sees himself doing what needs to be done without any ideological motivation. Interesting. ‎

During his brief time in the Senate, Obama was rated as the most liberal senator in the entire body in 2007. In the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama famously told Joe the plumber that he was going to raise taxes because “when you spread the wealth, it’s good for everybody.” What could be more ideological than wealth redistribution? What is Obamacare if not an ideological drive for government control and wealth redistribution?  And let’s not forget that the president pursues pointless – some say punitive – environmental policies meant to shape Americans’ lifestyles in furtherance of the ideological embrace of liberal global warming orthodoxy.

The president’s belief that little of what he does is ideologically driven suggests he is living with a pampered, unchallenged mind. He has been told he is so smart for so long that he sees only clarity in his actions and unchallengeable reason in his conclusions. The president’s belief in his own intellect makes him think that whatever he does is simply the only thing a thinking person would do. Nothing ideological about that. And as president, he is constantly flattered, and his confidence that his analysis and conclusions are superior to others is readily reinforced. Presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett tells us that Obama has been “bored to death his whole life.” Perhaps she is onto something. I guess there is something ho-hum and tiresome about being right all the time.

It appears that President Obama believes that dissenting views are irrational or the result of clouded, lesser thinking.  Being blind to his own ideology makes him unable to respectfully deal with others who might readily embrace an ideological point of view. The president’s inability to effectively work with Congress, orchestrate Washington, or build strong alliances or even friendships overseas probably stems from his belief that others should defer to his clear thinking without many questions or objections. He doesn’t see politics as a great debate with multiple possibilities among equal voices.

After about five years as president, it is unlikely he will change his modus operandi. In fact, given all we have observed about Obama, it is safe to say that he cannot adapt and will never be able to produce win-win outcomes among competing interests and ideologies. For anything to get done, others must manage around him, rather than think he can become the conductor of our political symphony.

 

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Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.