NYT: Obama's kind of a White House recluse

Who knew that Hope and Change could be so bleak and monotonous?  At least the New York Times is here to remind us that Barack Obama endures all this isolation in Hawaii and Martha’s Vineyard for our benefit, you miserable ingrates (via Jim Geraghty):

Mr. Obama, in general, does not go out of his way to play the glad-handing, ego-stroking presidential role. While he does sometimes offer a ride on Air Force One to a senator or member of Congress, more often than not, he keeps Congress and official Washington at arm’s length, spending his down time with a small — and shrinking — inner circle of aides and old friends.

He typically golfs with a trio of mid- to low-level staff members little known outside the West Wing. He does not spend much time at Camp David, the retreat other presidents have used to woo Washington. His social life runs toward evenings playing Taboo with old friends and their families, Wii video games with his wife and daughters or basketball with Robert Wolf, a banker and the rare new best friend Mr. Obama has acquired since entering politics. He vacations with friends from Chicago on Martha’s Vineyard in August and in Hawaii at Christmas.

This week, for example, Mr. Obama is ensconced in the protective bubble of the Secret Service. With him are his closest outside-the-Beltway-friends, including Eric Whitaker, a Chicago doctor, and two of Mr. Obama’s Hawaii friends from Punahou School: Mike Ramos, a businessman, and Robert Titcomb, a commercial fisherman whom Mr. Obama has stuck by despite his arrest in April on suspicion of soliciting a prostitute. Mr. Obama bolted from Washington last Friday barely an hour after he had signed legislation extending the payroll tax cut after a grinding fight with House Republicans whose result is widely viewed as a big win for him. His relationship with Washington insiders is described by members of both parties as “remote,” “distant” and “perfunctory.”

It’s not the first time the media has noticed that Obama is a bit of a loner.  A month ago, Newsweek/Daily Beast editor Tina Brown told Joe Scarborough how little Obama likes his job.  The month before that, a spate of news articles hit the stands about Obama’s aloofness, his bad relationships with political allies, and general lack of people skills.  Chris Matthews even openly wondered just before Thanksgiving why Obama wants another term, and why Obama seems incapable of making an argument for what he would do with one.

Never fear, though.  The NYT found a great resource of advice for Obama in his time of solitude and isolation:

“It’s about building relationships,” said Gerald Rafshoon, a television producer who was President Jimmy Carter’s communications director. “Some people are saying he’s a recluse. You don’t want that reputation. He needs to show that he likes people.” Mr. Rafshoon’s old boss, an outsider to Washington when he became president, recently wrote in his book “White House Diary” that he did not socialize enough when he was the chief executive.

Jimmy Carter had a lot of problems as President (and perhaps more as a former President), and lack of socializing may well have been one of them.  Carter didn’t get the boot because he was a loner, though; he got the boot because he had nothing to offer to fix a chronically stagnating economy and had gotten bullied on the foreign stage.  Obama’s done somewhat better on foreign policy than Carter, although not by a whole lot, but has an even worse economy than Carter’s with no clear policy on how to fix it.  All Obama has done is take a page from Carter’s predecessor Gerald Ford in offering a bunch of meaningless slogans like Recovery Summer, this administration’s Whip Inflation Now, combined with self-defeating short-term gimmickry.

Maybe Obama doesn’t like his job because he’s not very good at it.  And if that’s the case, we can help him out … literally.