Members of the president’s own team have made it clear that the president does not like to be in a challenging environment and that he is generally bored. David Axelrod labeled the president “no-drama Obama” during the 2008 campaign, and Valerie Jarrett infamously said that Barack Obama has been “bored to death his whole life.” And now, in an interview with CBS News, former defense secretary Robert Gates — arguably President Obama’s most experienced Cabinet officer — tells us that he saw in the president an “absence of passion … absence of a conviction of the importance of success.”
A blasé, no-drama attitude, boredom, a lack of conviction and an absence of passion can all be seen as factors contributing to Obamacare’s failure, a bewilderingly weak foreign policy, and a piecemeal, eleventh-hour approach to dealing with Congress on domestic issues, including the budget and our national debt. Obama is a bystander president who shrugs as events unfold and yawns as our problems get worse. As I have said in the past, I believe that for Obama, being president is all about having the job, not doing the job.
However, the administration has a lot of good people in the mix who are firmly committed to taking action, engaging Congress and the bureaucracy and leading the country. The problem is that the president is not one of those people. It is obvious that when he is not campaigning, Obama lacks purpose and energy. All we get from him are occasional speeches and perfunctory meetings that look and sound okay but are not connected to robust, spirited organizational efforts by the White House or other executive agencies.
It is said that the White House – and ultimately the entire presidency – reflects the personality of the president. Well, soon we will see if the Democratic Party will also start to reflect Obama’s dispassionate approach. Can the Democratic Party maintain its energy and commitment when, according to some of Obama’s closest advisers, the president doesn’t have much of his own to contribute? Or will the attitude conveyed from the top sap the spirit from the Democrats? They can’t count on a perceived dislike of Republicans in Congress to substitute for the lack of any excitement provided by Obama. Remember that in 2012, many in the GOP thought the prospect of defeating Obama would energize Republicans to turn out and vote, even if Mitt Romney could not. Well, Republicans were wrong. Will Democrats make the same mistake?
As Obama’s second term drags on, we’ll see if the indifference from the top, coupled with a string of failures – on foreign policy, Obamacare, a stagnant economy and other domestic issues – will weigh on the Democrats in 2014. It will be interesting to watch the final weeks of candidate recruitment and the critical upcoming fundraising season to see if there is an Obama malaise developing in the Democratic Party.
Follow Ed on Twitter: @EdRogersDC