Plenty of people have concluded that Barack Obama has already begun the lame-duck phase of his presidency, but Joe Scarborough suggests that Obama may think so as well. In an interview with Hugh Hewitt making the rounds today, the Morning Joe host says that Obama’s insistence on hitting the links on Martha’s Vineyard in the increasing number of crises erupting means “he is either politically tone deaf or he just doesn’t give a damn,” and he’s pretty sure it’s the latter. His friends among Senate Democrats think Obama has “checked out”:
HH: Vice President Cheney, do they not get that the President should not be at Martha’s Vineyard right now?
JS: Well, you know, we had Dana Milbank on who, again, not the most right wing columnist for the Washington Post, but Dana said it’s one thing for presidents going on vacation. We’re all big supporters of presidents going on vacation. It’s another thing to be in Martha’s Vineyard while you’ve got tanks rolling in Middle America, and all the Middle East melts down. This is a president that does go out of his way to show that he’s not paying attention to what anybody says. He’s going to do exactly what he wants to do, and he’s going to be stubborn about it. He is politically, he is either politically tone deaf or he just doesn’t give a damn. And I tend to believe based on everything I’ve heard from people who work inside the White House, and we’ve got a lot of friends there, and based on my friends who are senior Democratic senators, this president has checked out.
HH: He is.
JS: He wants to be the next, I hear it time and time again from his close political allies. This man wants to be an ex-president.
Not that he has a lot to look forward to in that phase, either. Obama has made the mistake of insulating himself with “yes men,” he notes, but that won’t last forever. Some of those who are “yes men” now will start writing tell-all books when the weight of history comes down on this administration, and it won’t be pretty:
JS: The Obama administration and Valerie, I’ve got to say, I’m good friends with Valerie, too, but you know, Valerie and a lot of people around the White House said early on we don’t want to make new friends. I think it’s one of the biggest mistakes that any president can make. I think George W. Bush in large part made a lot of mistakes, because he was insulated. He had a lot of Yalies around him, and he didn’t want outsiders around him. I always looked to Ronald Reagan, who had James Baker trying to beat him in 1980. The second he beat George H.W. Bush, the first thing he did was hire James Baker and had James Baker run his campaign. And then he had James Baker on his White House, because he wasn’t afraid to have people around him who weren’t inside his bubble.
This president wants yes men around him. And again, I hear that from my Democratic friends, I hear that from his own former chiefs of staff. If anybody steps out of line, they’re immediately insulated and pushed out. You know, I said this on set after the cameras were turned off to a couple of people who I knew wouldn’t say it on the air. I said guys, you know as well as I do that the second this administration is over, the books are going to come from former secretaries of state. The books are going to come from former chiefs of staff. The books are going to come, and this president is going to have to deal with 20-30 years of disparagement from his own side, calling him one of the least effective presidents, because he’s one of the most insulated presidents.
Yes, when the recriminations begin flowing when the administration finally packs their bags, don’t expect a ringing chorus of hosannas — except about their departure. It won’t take long for those books to emerge, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them emerge before the end of the term. In fact, based on how her summer has gone, Hillary Clinton may be kicking herself for not grasping that opportunity with Hard Choices.