“Aloof.” “Cool.” “Above the fray.” These are all characteristics that have been used to describe President Obama and likely characteristics he would use to describe himself. President Obama came to Washington promising to end the partisan rancor that has come to define lawmaking in the nation’s capitol. But instead of addressing it, he just pretends like he never has to get his hands dirty.
A New York Times article today reveals that lawmakers in the President’s own party are fed up with his refusal to actually work with Congress:
With Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, sitting a few feet away, Mr. Reid complained that Senate Republicans were spitefully blocking the confirmation of dozens of Mr. Obama’s nominees to serve as ambassadors. He expected that the president would back him up and urge Mr. McConnell to relent.
“You and Mitch work it out,” Mr. Obama said coolly, cutting off any discussion.
Mr. Reid seethed quietly for the rest of the meeting, according to four separate accounts provided by people who spoke with him about it. After his return to the Capitol that afternoon, Mr. Reid told other senators and his staff members that he was astonished by how disengaged the president seemed… the impression the president left with Mr. Reid was clear: Capitol Hill is not my problem.
This cuts to the heart of the matter when longtime Washingtonians decry President Obama’s inability to “lead.” Leadership isn’t about declaring your intentions and letting those you deem to be your underlings sort out the specifics. It’s about working with them, as individuals, to chart out a path and, when necessary, make compromises along the way.