Now the president is full of resentment, fatalistic, irritated at being ignored or disrespected by his people and The People. But this doesn’t come from long years of attempts to bring the parties together to forge compromise – it comes from his realization that he’d rather golf than put up with the demands of the job. If Obama truly thought that politics only consists of getting elected, he was truly naïve about the demands of the presidency – just as he has been naïve about the nature of the Republican Party, conservatism and libertarianism, party and congressional politics, the public’s desire for wage growth and job security, even middle eastern dictators’ and terrorists’ assessment of their own interests.
The stunning part is the nature of this naïveté. It is not that it is the high-minded academic view of a cloistered college professor – it’s the naïveté of a dim-witted screenwriter, an acceptance of an beau ideal of the American presidency that is most recognizable as an invention of Aaron Sorkin, not a reflection of history. The president who walks into the room, says “I am the Lord your God”, and wins the argument. Only in the world of Andrew Shepard or Jed Bartlet does the president demolish his adversaries and win major political battles merely by reading his lines. But no matter: after he leaves office, we’ll be treated to an unprecedented revisionism tour, framing him as facing a political environment tougher than anything since Abraham Lincoln; how Republican opposition was all about racism, but he held back saying so to protect the American people from that fractious debate; how Hillary and the Clinton team was always working against him and key staffers were in cahoots with her all along. Get ready, because we’ll be hearing this for years.