As an outgrowth of the dispute over the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, liberal Democrats have demonstrated that Barack Obama is every bit the lame duck his predecessors were at this point in their presidencies.
The president spent much of the winter exploiting the weakness and disunity of the congressional GOP in order to demonstrate that he was still the master of his own destiny. That edifice collapsed amid the start of the 2016 campaign cycle.
Today, Barack Obama’s most dangerous adversaries occupy his side of the aisle. As the president seeks expanded authority to negotiate a free trade agreement with America’s Asian partners, he has met unexpected resistance to this proposal from Democrats. In his effort to compel his left flank to drop their objections to this trade agreement, the president has relied almost exclusively on his diminished cult of personality to compel progressive submission.
“If you were watching MSNBC and all this stuff, you’re thinking, ‘Man, I love Obama, but what’s going on?’” Obama said on MSNBC. While this is perhaps an accurate appraisal of the average MSNBC viewer’s internal monologue, it’s a touch unseemly for the president to so callously expose the liberal cable news network’s flagrant biases while he is its guest.
“When people say this trade deal is bad for working families, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” the petulant president continued in this week’s multilateral interview with, among others, MSNBC host Chris Matthews.
Obama went on to note that he finds it objectionable that so many of his erstwhile progressive allies refuse to defer to his better judgment and assume that he has their best interests at heart:
“Think about it. I’ve spent the last six and half years yanking this economy out of the worst recession since the great depression. Every single thing I’ve done from the Affordable Care Act to pushing to raise the minimum wage to making sure that young people are able to go to college and get good job training to what we’re pushing now in terms of sick pay leave,” Obama said. “Everything I do has been focused on how do we make sure the middle class is getting a fair deal.”
“Now I would not be doing this trade deal if I did not think it was good for the middle class. And when you hear folks make a lot of suggestions about how bad this trade deal is, when you dig into the facts they are wrong,” Obama said.
Scorned, the president took his anti-progressive message where he is the most comfortable: A campaign setting. In a speech to those remaining parishioners who populate OFA’s ever-thinning pews, the president scolded his party’s activist class for – no joke – centering their campaign against the TPP on empty rhetoric.
“We can’t go back to the past. We shouldn’t want to. We want to make sure we win the future,” Obama told about 200 activists from Organizing for Action — the reincarnation of the presidential campaign that fought for “change we can believe in.”
“You don’t make change through slogans,” he said. “You don’t make change through ignoring realities.”
Obama tore into those members of the Democratic Party’s liberal wing for “saying this trade deal would destroy the American working families, despite the fact that I’ve done everything in my power to make sure that working families are empowered.”
“By this logic I would’ve had to do all his stuff for the last six and a half years and then, suddenly, just say I want to just destroy all of that,” the president added.
National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke noticed that the president is abandoning the art of argumentation and is instead relying on the force of his personality to make the case for the TPP.
“That he expects the public and his party to just accept that he’s a perfect champion for the middle class and that absolutely anything he does is therefore the right thing to do — well, that’s pretty disgusting,” Cooke noted.
Disgusting, and more than a little bit emotionally manipulative. Wounded, the president is not making the case for the TPP but is instead asking his former adorers why they now forsake him.
This might be the clearest indication yet that the president’s strutting over this past winter, in which he attempted to recast himself as invigorated and emboldened following his rebuke at the hands of the midterm electorate, was no feint at all. Maybe he honestly believed that he could buck history and demonstrate that lame duck status was not inevitable so long as the occupant of the Oval Office possessed the will and strength of character sufficient to obviate that condition. If Obama was truly convinced of that, he was only deceiving himself.