Fire everyone who matters, helpful pundits tell the White House. If you are going to do something significant, don’t fire a few mid-level scapegoats; rather, really clean house to show the president understands the depth of his problems. But how likely is that, really?
A full house-cleaning would take out Denis McDonough (if the chief of staff doesn’t go most everything else is irrelevant), senior adviser Valerie Jarrett (whose fingerprints are all over the second term), Dan Pfeiffer (head spinner for the White House when things get dicey), and — if he is serious — Jack Lew at Treasury (who commands no respect), Chuck Hagel (the same) and Susan Rice (who presided over the Syria debacle and now finds the administration entirely blindsided by domestic and international critics of the Iran deal). And of course, the hapless and entirely unbelievable Jay Carney, who has come to epitomize the administration’s lack of candor, would have to go.
There are a number of reasons why this is unlikely to occur. First, the president wants to operate with flunkies and yes-men; that is why he put those people in place and systematically rid his administration of independent-minded voices who might argue or push back. He feels besieged and victimized, the precise mindset that causes one to circle the wagons.
Second, it would denote abject panic. Dems are already sliding away from the president and the media is increasingly and intensely critical. A clean sweep at the White House would give the president weeks of “Is it over?” and “Can he avoid becoming a lame duck?” headlines.
Third, it does reflect on the boss who hired these people when they prove to be so incompetent that the only solution is a mass firing.
Fourth, in fairness most of the problems in this administration stem from the president’s own preferences (partisan), style (accusatory), foibles (untruthfulness) and ideological blinders. Is the Obamacare rollout really Jarrett’s doing or is it the natural consequence of a legislative scheme too big to work and of a president allergic to bad news?
Fifth, once you fire them you lose control. They might tell tales, speak out of turn and otherwise defend their reputations. Unlike the first term, loyalists can’t be hushed up with the prospect of new and better jobs; these people will be gone for good. And finally, there would be a certain amount of chaos as the changing of the guard took place and new people would be required to get up to speed.
The White House gang, like the mistress of Tara, insist that tomorrow is always another day. David Plouffe says the president is trusted and it will all work out. Its most loyal spinners in the media (the ones Obama feels comfortable reading as they rarely fail to tell him precisely what he wants to hear) insist that Obamacare will work fine after a few glitches. The administration tells us critics of the Iran deal are on the war path and Obamacare naysayers don’t care about the sick. Defiance, denial, demagoguery. It doesn’t sound like a president aware he must turn over a new leaf.
Even when the 2010 “shellacking” occurred, the president never altered course. Short of a loss of the Senate next year (a distinct possibility), it’s hard to see the president prostrating himself before the entire country, essentially admitting the second term has been a bust. Obama has always thrived on making the other guys look bad and pumping up his base. That, I suspect is what he will continue to do, at least until the 2014 election.