The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Obama absent

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It is puzzling that less than two years into his second term President Obama can’t be bothered to do his job. It’s not just one topic, but a whole array of them.

On the Middle East, there is a small war raging between Israel and Hamas. Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams breaks the news: “Prime Minister Netanyahu has discussed this with French president Hollande and with German chancellor Merkel [and the British prime minister]. But not with President Obama, who has not seen fit to call Netanyahu or take a call from him. This is quite amazing behavior for an ally. I am aware as all readers are that the two men have a difficult relationship, but that is no justification. If the president has time this week to fund-raise, he has time to call the leader of an ally under attack.” Is he so hostile to the Jewish state that he can’t bring himself to personally express support, or is he nervous the prime minister might bring up the farcical Iran talks? Maybe he just can’t be bothered.

There is no policy direction coming from the White House on any of our international challenges. An Iraq policy? Nope. A coherent plan for Syria? Zip.

Likewise, he’s backed himself into a corner by refusing to go to the border. The excuse — no photo ops! — is bizarre considering he’s the king of photo ops and, in any event, this is a real crisis. His new nemesis, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), nailed it when he said, “So actions are really important. Unless we see this president acting, the American people are going to think that he does not care about securing the border. I think that’s the real political issue for this president. . . . I don’t understand why the president has dug his heels in and basically said to Democrats and Republicans alike, ‘I’m not going because it will look political.’” Perry is in good company. And on this one Obama has made it nearly impossible to relent since a visit now would surely been seen as a political capitulation.

At home, he won’t make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, despite pleas from members of his own party. He won’t rouse the Senate to consider dozens and dozens of House-passed bills. Certainly some of them must be acceptable, right? He’s stopped putting forth any entitlement reforms.

You wonder what he plans on doing for the rest of his presidency. He is not doing the day-to-day things every president does (e.g. call allies, check out a local disaster). And he’s not generating any policy. (Is he depressed? Bored?) You sort of wonder what is the point of being president if you don’t plan on doing anything but rewinding tired campaign speeches.

At home, some conservatives think the less he does the better, but we have real problems (an immigration crisis, anemic growth, a malfunctioning health-care bureaucracy, debt, etc.) that need attention. On the international scene, absent American leadership already has prompted violence, terrorism and instability; doing nothing surely will only make things worse. Perhaps it is this: The president doesn’t have a clue how to address the real and substantive problems we face so he hides and mopes and lashes out. He needs to shake it off and get back to work — hire new advisers if need be. As bad as he is, the country can’t go two and a half years with no president, which is about what we’ve got right now.