President Obama is a singularly ungracious and non-self-reflective person. In his press conference today he refused yet again to acknowledge reality.
He tried to downplay the Democrats’ loss of the Senate by talking to the two-thirds of people who did not vote. He tried to insinuate that it was a bipartisan rejection. He reminded us several times that he is still president. (“I’m the guy elected by everybody.”) He boasted about an economy most voters think is rotten. He has, however, learned nothing. After a historic repudiation, he is staying the course and still threatens unilateral action by year’s end on immigration reform. One would have thought his policies were not on the ballot or that his party saw historic losses in consecutive midterm elections. He defiantly announced that he will veto some bills and that Congress won’t like his executive actions. He insisted it had to be his way: “If there are ideas that the Republicans have that I have confidence will make things better for ordinary Americans, the fact that the Republicans [are] suggesting it, as opposed to a Democrat — that’ll be irrelevant to me. I want to just see what works.” In other words he sees no reason to compromise; Republicans must agree with him.
On foreign policy he was, to be generous, fuzzy. We have offered Iran a “framework” of unspecified terms, but Iran will have to decide whether to accept, he said. He mouths the platitude that a bad deal is worse than no deal, but virtually no informed observers on the Hill think he knows the difference between a good and bad deal. He insisted Iran has complied with an interim deal, ignoring its refusal to cooperate with inspectors. He refused to say if we are winning the war against the Islamic State, although he will ask Congress for an authorization for use of force. Insisting he would not solve Syria’s problems, he implicitly renounced his demand for years that Bashar al-Assad must go. If ever there was a display justifying more robust congressional stewardship of national security, this was it.
In Hillaryland, you wonder what they make of this. Will they be forced to defend a clueless president still unmoved by voters’ resounding anti-Obama message? The more antagonistic he becomes toward the majorities in both houses, the more dangerous it will become for Hillary Clinton to remain aligned with him and his policies. She cannot run and win offering a third Obama term.
All in all it did not bode well for the next two years, but it does provide an attractive target for Republicans to run against in 2016. (We can’t take this anymore!) It also suggests that the voters were right to hamstring him and send minders to keep things from getting far worse internationally and more lawless at home. It was, most of all, a reminder of why he is unpopular.