During their respective time in office, both Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton asserted their believe that legislation stood a greater chance of succeeding if no one cared who took the credit. Ronald Reagan believed this so strongly, that he had the words inscribed on a plaque that he kept on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office. (Replicas are available for purchase at the Reagan Library). Bill Clinton, speaking in reference to reducing the national dept, stating the approach explicitly in his first State of the Union address. Much has changed in the ensuing years. Now, in 2013, it appears that the Obama Administration has inverted this sentiment and would rather see legislation fail if it can’t be covered in all of the glory and receive all of the credit. If this is not the explicit approach being adopted by the Obama Administration, then the Congressional Liaison staff is going out of their way to make it appear so.
Over the past four years relations between the White House and Congress have been testy at best, even when Democrats controlled both houses with a super majority in the Senate. The situation deteriorated sharply following the 2010 mid-term elections and a federal budget has not been passed since. Any hopes that a new era would emerge following the 2012 election cycle have vanished, as both Republicans and Democrats have clung to their respective mandates as reason to continue to obstruct and delay for at least the next two years. Whilst flaws exist on both sides, the White House has, in rapid succession, demonstrated a stunning disregard for political process and for the nuance required to pass legislation in Congress. In a political system explicitly designed to frustrate, the Obama Administration appears determined to make matters worse rather than better. Two incidents highlight what appears to be administration obstructionism of the worst possible kind that threatens the economic, political and cultural integrity of the nation.
The first issue arose in the last days of 2012, as the United States was hurtling towards what became universally known as the Fiscal Cliff. Economists, political consultants and media pundits speculated wildly as to the potential repercussions of such an event, whilst in D.C., high-level negotiations continued in an apparent effort to prevent such an incident. This, of course, had been an artificial deadline, imposed to ensure that politicians of both sides of the aisle worked together to agree upon a budget. This apparently was too much to ask for. However, with the deadline looming politicians gathered into the early hours to thrash out a deal that would be mutually agreeable to Democrats and Republicans alike. Yet whilst these negotiations were moving forward, President Obama chose to stage a campaign style rally on the White House campus surrounded by a group of children who he claimed would suffer under the proposals put forth by the Republican Party.
Now, to be clear, the Republican Party and its leadership hardly covered themselves in glory in this process and as a result questions were asked as to the continued viability of John Boehner’s Speakership. However, putting Republican ineptitude to one side, the decision of the president to stage such a politically inept event at the very moment that negotiators were meeting to flesh out an agreement spoke volumes as to the tin ear that that the administration has and to its appalling capacity to deal with Congress. Just as negotiations were nearing completion the president elected to play politics rather than work to ensure an agreeable solution. It should not surprise anyone that the final deal appears to have been struck by Vice President Biden, and the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, two old boys from the Senate who have known each other for decades and who are used to working together to solve problems; In other words, two politicians who understand how and why Congress works and importantly, how not to get things done. Even then, the best that they could do was to kick the problem 3 months down the road, so that we are faced with the dilemma once more. In the coming days the spectre of Sequestration will loom large once more as the U.S. hovers above a financial abyss. Once more the world will look on aghast and ponder the fate of the world’s most important economic powerhouse and the childish antics of its leading politicians.
The second incident involved a similar situation but a different set of circumstances. For years, politicians in Washington have been debating immigration reform. However, only rarely do serious proposals see the light of day and make it out of various committees. In Washington, failed legislation can become toxic and persuade any career minded politician to avoid the issue for years, possibly even decades (as occurred with health care). So when a bipartisan group of serious minded, intelligent Senators (known as the Group of 8) got together in an effort to present a balanced and logical series of initiatives on the issue, you would have imagined that this was something the White House would have been supportive of, but you would be wrong.
Instead of welcoming such moves and working either quietly or openly to promote a bipartisan initiative to solve this long-standing issue, the White House appears determined to kill it at birth. The first inept move was for President Obama to insist on delivering a speech in Las Vegas within hours of the Group of 8 press conference on the issue, which had been the very image of bipartisanship. This immediately drew attention and political momentum away from the work that had been conducted on the issue and muddied the waters in relation to the situation. As if this wasn’t bad enough, USA Today has now been provided with draft legislation from the White House that would appear to directly challenge the bill being proposed by the Group of 8.
If passage of immigration reform was the political priority of the administration it had a perfect opportunity to pursue a bipartisan bill that would have put Obama and his former 2008 adversary John McCain and his potential successor in 2016, Marco Rubio, on the same side of the issue. Instead, the White House has sought to politicise the issue and risks torpedoing the issue. One must ask at what point ineptitude becomes a deliberate attempt to obfuscate and be bloody-minded. Whichever approach is being adopted, the end result is the same; bipartisan legislation is being undermined, politics is becoming sullied and confidence in the United States is being shaken at precisely the moment that it needs to provide global leadership in time of economic crisis.
This continuing escapade is a clear and telling reminder of Obama’s lack of legislative experience and should be a warning the next time a candidate has the hubris to declare himself ready for the presidency after little more than 18 months in the U.S. Senate. Leadership, it appears, was not on the ballot in 2012, let us hope it will be in 2016.
I am delighted to announce that I will be returning to the international airwaves on Monday evening as a guest of Sara Marie Brenner on The Brenner Brief, broadcast out of Ohio. I will be discussing the latest developments in U.S. politics and focusing upon the deployment of drones on the African continent.
For details of the show, how to listen in and for news on other guests, click HERE
I am very excited to announce a new look to our sister site, The Middle East State of Mind. A site overhaul, long in the planning, has now been initiated, providing what I think is a great new look to the site that will make the material even more engaging.
I hope that you will enjoy the insightful and educated postings that are available on a range of issues addressing the region and encourage you to sign up for email alerts for future postings and podcasts.
I am delighted to announce that I will be returning to the airwaves this evening. I will be on Monocle 24 and discussing Immigration Reform and the news that the White House has leaked draft legislation on the issue to USA Today, which is causing repercussions on Capitol Hill. I will be joined by the US Editor of The Independent, David Usborne on a show hosted by Louise Beale and Markus Hippi, live from 22:00 UK time this evening.
Late last week I received word that my article on Obama’s State of the Union had been selected for inclusion on the Freshly Pressed section of WordPress. I was naturally flattered that my work had been noted but was totally unprepared for the very positive reaction it received in the process.
My web site appears to have been inundated in the last 48 hours and I am most grateful to those of you who have visited, read my work and chosen to sign up for updates. I hope that my observations and commentaries continue to draw you back to the site and that you will take some time to look over the various sections of the platform to gain an understanding of my work to date.
The broadcast page is hyper-linked up to provide feedback of my work with the world’s leading outlets and a selection of my publications can also be accessed, along with a complete archive of this site, as well as my various podcasts. Enjoy and feel free to drop me a line or follow me on Twitter.
As I announced recently, this web site now has a sister site, the Middle East State of Mind, dedicated to all things political and cultural associated with the area. In recent days the site has added a regular podcast and today a new posting has been produced that examines the fluctuating attention that Iran has received in recent months and speculates as to the reason for this.
To discover if The Iranian Elephant Has Left The Room, head over to the site and be sure to sign up for regular updates.
I am very pleased to announce the establishment of The American Chronicle, a new venture here at JDB.com designed to address developing political and cultural events in the United States.
Episode 1 addresses the State of the Union, the Congressional hearings into Obama’s nominees and the latest (and hopefully final) entry in the Die Hard Series.
This is a new venture and I daresay that improvements will be made but I hope that you enjoy this initial episode.
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