White House Chief of Staff William Daley will resign today, ending what was in effect the White House’s failed experiment in faux moderation. His replacement will be Jack Lew, the current head of Office and Management and Budget, whose influence we saw in the presentation of a 2011 budget controlled by Obama’s political advisors. Lew, an experienced budget hand, was sent up to deliver a political budget designed to satisfy the base and promote confrontation rather than progress on deficit control. He will presumably have no more latitude now that he is being shuffled to a bigger office.
Daley was hired, supposedly to soothed to get along with the business community in the wake of the president’s party’s 2010 “shellacking.” But as I and many expected, the policies that the president has insisted upon and the increasingly vitriolic tone of class warfare clashed with the facade of a more reasonable, business-friendly White House. Daley’s social relationships with business leaders were no substitute for more business-friendly policies. Instead, Obama has reverted both rhetorically and substantively to that with which he feels most comfortable: liberal partisanship.
In the wake of the president’s extra-constitutional power grab on recess appointments and his demonization of the Republican Party, it would seem the president’s leftist instincts and advisors are fully in command. There is no pretense of trying to reach deals with the Republicans on entitlement or tax reform. The Defense Department’s budget, if the president has his way, will be cut. The base extols in the showing of no-holds-barred leftism. But now that everything is subsumed to the goal of re-election, how exactly does the undisguised lurch to the left help Obama?
Obama’s blank slate, on which moderate voters projected their aspirations, is now filled in. The resulting portrait is of a president unwilling to talk turkey to his own base, unwilling to address our debt and convinced that vilification and name calling is the key to success. Comity, the constitution or governance? Forget it. In both Obama and Newt Gingrich you now see the crystallization of lowest-common denominator politics. The politics of personal destruction? They are a matched pair, perfect practitioners of that game. Alas, the country is not better off. But boy do they feel good showing who is a force to be reckoned with.