The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘All politics is personal’

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At the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy gathering this morning, Vice President Biden unintentionally said something insightful. It was, however, very unfavorable to his boss.

In declaring that “all politics is personal,” Biden got to the nub of what the AIPAC members in the room and the larger pro-Israel community is worried about: No matter what Biden (or for that matter President Obama) says, Obama’s own relationship with the prime minister is so contemptuous, and his instincts reveal a fair amount of animus toward the elected government of Israel, that one wonders about the importance of all those words. And in choosing Chuck Hagel to run the Defense Department, the president selected someone personally antagonistic toward Israel, showing how little concerned about that relationship the president is. In other words, if all politics is personal, the Jewish State is in real trouble.

Biden’s admonition is also relevant to Obama’s conduct on domestic policy. Former New York Times editor Bill Keller writes:

For weeks he has been playing the game political scientists call “Fireman First.” That’s when scaremongering politicians threaten to cut the most essential services. It’s true, the sequester is a grotesque and hurtful substitute for the kind of reforms the country needs. Bad things will happen. Maybe the furloughs and canceled contracts will stir the public enough to break the impasse. But by the weekend even the president was sounding helpless, if not acquiescent.


Clearly the days of “putting off unpleasant decisions” are not over. And this is where they get you.

He could have added that Obama’s trustworthiness is so low with Republicans that they won’t even meet privately for actual negotiations. They are trying to cut him out (that is what “regular order of business” entails) because they can make more progress with Senate Democrats than with a White House that vilifies, lambastes and makes up facts.

Obama’s personal relationships with Republican lawmakers, with world leaders (except the noxious prime minister of Turkey) and even with his own congressional allies (who are often left in the dark) are generally poor. I suppose when you consider yourself the smartest person in every room and morally superior to mere mortal politicians, it is hard to work with others. And it makes for a rotten president.