Taking a break from the holiday obsession of the political junkie class (the Iowa caucuses), I noticed yesterday a piece in the New York Times that confirms what I’ve heard from other sources about President Obama: The man simply doesn’t like to engage in the sort of schmoozing and ego-stroking so essential to success in Washington.
The chattering classes talk incessantly of how the economy could be Obama’s undoing. And while it is certainly correct that no president has been re-elected with more than 8% unemployment since Franklin Roosevelt (and Obama is no FDR), it’s also true that political capital can be maximized through the judicious use of human capital.
We also hear that Obama is not accorded the respect other presidents have attracted in the past and that this lack of courtesy could have something to do with the color of his skin. And while I’m sure there are racists out there whose contempt for blacks forbids them from respecting Obama, I suspect the way Obama is treated stems more from other factors such as his lack of experience and gravitas. No one fears the man, least of all members of his own party in Congress who basically shut him out of the debt ceiling debate last summer because of his poor negotiating skills.
But more so even than his unsteady leadership chops, Obama has been the victim of his own unwillingness to make members of the opposite party feel included, notwithstanding his promise of a post-partisan presidency. It took Obama 18 months, for example, before he met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. And the aloofness extends to members of his own cabinet. During the first two years of his presidency, Obama didn’t bother to confer with at least half a dozen of his own cabinet members — not even a phone call.
If the president wants to succeed, then he must sell his programs. And the number-one rule in sales is the salesman must build relationships in order to make the sale. For all his purported intelligence, Obama does not understand this simple concept.
I ask you: why would someone who doesn’t like politics want to be the politician-in-chief?