The case of the missing president

Obama was hectoring his supporters to get behind absolutely anything that would pass, without even the slenderest nod to what might be in it (this is how he ended up with a progressive Congressman describing the final result as a “Satan sandwich”). Second, the barrage of Tweets from Obama then targeting each and every state’s delegation made him sound like a 13-year-old girl trying to start a trending topic about Justin Bieber, rather than the Leader of the Free World directing events. Third, Obama’s expectation that the voters and swing-district Congressmen and Senators would rally behind a backroom deal without any public defense of its specifics was a disastrous misreading of the public mood in general and the mood of newly-elected, Tea Party-backed Republicans in particular.

And finally, Obama’s backroom strategy destroyed his leverage. As John Pohoretz noted in the Post column I linked to earlier today, Obama’s inability to either work out a deal in private or rally public support behind any particular plan resulted in a deal that left out the one thing he had demanded, any tax hikes. And indeed, whether or not the Hill’s account is accurate, it is telling that Obama insisted that his entire role be performed offstage where the public couldn’t verify what he was doing or where he stood except by taking the word of him and his spokesmen. That amounted to a total surrender of the ‘bully pulpit,’ despite Obama’s frequent appearances to repeat his vague appeals for a “balanced” approach – Republicans could see that he wasn’t willing to take any stand for which he’d be held accountable, and so they inferred, correctly, that he’d never stand ground he’d taken in private if he feared to take it in public. His silence on the specifics rendered him weak and vulnerable, and ultimately impotent. He became the man who’d take any deal, so of course he got none of what he asked for.