Democrats on Capitol Hill not only want more communication from Barack Obama, but they want him to stop resting on his laurel as well. That message comes through clearly in this report from The Hill about a recent meeting between Senate Democrats and some fresh faces at the White House. Some of them had begun to wonder whether Obama planned to do anything at all after his 2012 re-election, or just hold the record for the longest status as lame duck ever:
Frustrated Senate Democrats hope a meeting set to take place on Wednesday with President Obama will help them turn a corner with a White House they see as too distant and insular.
Aides say the new faces joining the president’s inner circle suggest a possible new humility following a year that saw Obama hammered over the botched rollout of his healthcare law, a series of administrative controversies and an aborted attempt to launch a military strike against Syria.
Obama brought in John Podesta and Katie Beirne Fallon to improve matters, but The Hill’s Amie Parne and Justin Sink notes that some Democrats think the problem starts at the top:
“He hasn’t really ever wanted to have long conversations with my boss,” the third senior Democratic Senate aide said. “It always seems like he’s watching the clock.”
And it’s not necessarily improving all that much now, either:
But some Democratic aides are skeptical and worry Obama might already be a lame duck president.
“Have they improved?” one senior Democratic aide asked. “Maybe a little. But has there been a full-court press? I don’t think so. I think they can and should do a lot better.” …
“He’s a nonentity almost,” said another aide, who argued Obama missed an opportunity to move forward with innovative proposals after his reelection victory in 2012. “For some reason, his lame-duckness started very quickly, but maybe that will change,” the aide said.
If they’re looking for “a new humility” from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the messaging this week means that Democrats will be destined for disappointment. Obama threatened to disregard Congress, even though his own party controls the upper chamber, by writing executive orders because, er … “I have a pen!”
Obama, speaking to reporters during a cabinet meeting at the White House, foreshadowed his upcoming State of the Union address and what appeared to be a new messaging strategy by emphasizing his ability to take executive actions without approval from lawmakers.
“We are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need,” he said.
“I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone. And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions … and I’ve got a phone that allows me to convene Americans from every walk of life,” he said.
Except EOs only go so far:
Obama listed immigration reform as a priority for the year. He will need Congress to turn his goals on that issue into law.
He also needs to stop campaigning and start governing — which means dealing with Congress with a little more humility than in the past. Otherwise, Obama will set a record for the longest time in lame-duck status, and he’ll lose his entire second term.