If you are a conservative living in Washington, D.C. and get out for the occasional cocktail party, you have almost certainly had the bizarre experience of meeting people for whom you are their first conservative.
“Why, I’ve never actually met anybody who believes that,” they say, awe creeping into their voices, as you state some idea that is utterly commonplace elsewhere in these United States.
Unfortunately, the numero uno resident of Washington appears to share this kind of isolation. Indeed, Michael Barone dissects New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza's recent piece on “The Obama Memos,” and finds a president in a bubble.
To begin, the president has an isolating way of working. He mostly reads memos from his staff and responds. In an item on the Lizza story (“What Does He Do All Day?”), blogger Mickey Kaus characterized Obama’s method of working this way:
The president's decision-making method — at least as described in this piece — seems to consist of mainly checking boxes on memos his aides have written for him.
Regarding a $60 billion cut in the stimulus program, POTUS wrote “OK.” As for the idea of tort reform in the health care bill, Obama responded, “We should explore it.”
The subhead of Lizza’s piece is “the making of a post-partisan presidency.” But you won’t come away from this story with the impression that Lizza obviously intended to create—that it was the GOP that thwarted the president’s supposed attempt to transcend partisanship. Indeed, you will come away from the story with the idea that the president regards people who disagree with him as being just as exotic as a conservative is at a cocktail party on Macomb Street.
At one point Lizza does quote Obama writing on a memo, "Have we looked at any of the other GOP recommendations (e.g., Paul Ryan's) to see if they make any sense?" Another president might have looked at Ryan's proposals himself or might even have called him on the phone.
George W. Bush, in contrast, worked with Democrats — and sometimes even talked with them — on his education plan, his tax cuts and the Iraq War resolution. He even tried, unsuccessfully, to negotiate with them on Social Security…
As in Chicago, Obama seems to live in a cocoon in which Republicans are largely absent, offscreen actors that no one pays any attention to.
His personal interactions are limited to his liberal Democratic staff — and to the rich liberals he meets at his frequent fundraising events. He has held more of these than George W. Bush, who in turn held more than Bill Clinton.
Barone points out that several recent decisions reflect the president’s isolation from people who aren’t either his staff or are rich liberals: the decree that Catholic institutions will have to pay for insurance policies that include procedures regarded by them as immoral and halting the Keystone XL pipeline:
Obama says he wants more jobs and to reduce American dependence on oil from unfriendly foreign sources. The pipeline would do both, and is endorsed by labor unions. But Robert Redford doesn't like Canadian tar sands oil. Case closed.
It is interesting that the man hailed as the the most brilliant man to attain the White House may turn out to be intellectually the narrowest. Barry Rubin, the Middle East expert, thinks that Obama's policies have not worked. Rich liberals who support the president know as much but can’t bring themselves to face up to it–at least in public:
President Barack Obama will probably be defeated in November by people voting for the Republican candidate who will then tell their friends that they voted for Obama. For them, that will be a compromise between responding to the reality they see as opposed to being in fashion and not being called nasty names by one’s peers.
Or just being politely regarded the creature from outer space at a Washington cocktail party…