“No Drama Obama”

If I am not mistaken, that phrase first surfaced during the 2008 campaign to describe the lack of panic when Hillary Clinton won a string of smaller state primary elections.  People were panicking; the press was touting their new story about Clinton overcoming the Obama lead to take the nomination.  And Obama and his team just kept trucking along the planned path.  “No Drama Obama”.

President Obama during a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House, May 16, 2013, in Washington, D.C.

President Obama during a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House, May 16, 2013, in Washington, D.C.

So here are three things to ponder in light of the recent “scandals”.  The first is from an Andrew Sullivan post on the Dish.

Former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau describes how Obama handles scandals:

The handwringers and bed wetters in the D.C. punditocracy should know that Barack Obama will never be on their timeline. He does not value being first over being right. He will not spend his presidency chasing news cycles. He will not shake up his White House staff just because of some offhand advice offered to Politico by a longtime Washingtonian or a nameless Democrat who’s desperately trying to stay relevant. And if that means Dana Milbank thinks he’s too passive; if it means that Jim VandeHei will keep calling him arrogant and petulant; if it means that Chris Matthews will whine about him not enjoying the presidency, then so be it. He’ll live.

Favreau knows him as well as anyone – and that rings true. It’s also a deep political strength. Most mortals cannot manage that no-drama glide – I sure can’t. Hillary is more easily provoked into hunkering down rather than sailing through. What troubles me, though, is not that the IRS clusterfuck and the VA backlog are signs of malevolence, but rather that they are indications of a government that doesn’t work right. And no president should glide past that.

The real issue, the one people, particularly the Republicans, may be missing is that President Obama, unlike Bill Clinton, is not all that interested in the nuts and bolts of governing.  If this is true, than Sullivan is correct:  Obama either needs to get interested or he needs to find some staffers that are interested.  I think that federal agency responsibilities have just gotten too big.  I’m not saying that we don’t need government and services, but that it may be time for a real review of whether we can cut some of the older programs or change them to be incorporated as part of newer ones.  Maybe we need another Al Gore waste in government study.  Or the President needs to step up his search for duplicate programs and add reoranizing for great efficiency.

The second is the fact the the President’s approval ratings don’t seem to be going down despite the best efforts of Darrell Issa and his friends.  Nate Silver summarizes

Political coverage over the last week has focused on a series of stories that reflect negatively on the executive branch — but President Obama’s approval ratings have held steady. As of Monday, Mr. Obama’s Gallup approval rating was 49 percent — the same as it was, on average, in April. Mr. Obama’s Rasmussen Reports approval rating was 48 percent, not much changed from an average of 50 percent in April. Mr. Obama’s approval rating in a CNN poll published on Sunday was 53 percent, little different from 51 percent in their April survey. And in a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Mr. Obama’s approval rating was 51 percent, essentially unchanged from 50 percent in April.

There are a lot of theories as to why Mr. Obama’s approval ratings have been unchanged in the wake of these controversies, which some news accounts and many of Mr. Obama’s opponents are describing as scandals. But these analyses may proceed from the wrong premise if they assume that the stories have had no impact. It could be that the controversies are, in fact, putting some downward pressure on Mr. Obama’s approval ratings — but that the losses are offset by improved voter attitudes about the economy.

Silver includes this graph.

If Silver is correct then the Republicans have to hope that one of their darts hit home or that the economy really tanks.  I’m one who is cautiously optimistic that we will have an actual budget come October making the sequester cuts go away.  If I am right, then the economy should remain in decent shape and maybe people will start hiring with the uncertainty removed.

I close with a bit of humor from Andy Borowitz who questions the ability of the no drama approach to any real scandal.

President Obama’s handling of controversies about the I.R.S., the Justice Department, and Benghazi has raised “grave doubts” about his ability to cope if he ever became involved in an actual scandal, prominent Republicans said today.

“If this is how he handles this stuff, Lord have mercy on him if he ever has to deal with a real scandal,” said newly elected Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S. Carolina). “Quite frankly, I don’t think he has what it takes.”

“The true test of a leader is this,” Rep. Sanford added. “When he gets in a fix, does he have the presence of mind to lie about his whereabouts? Sadly, I don’t think President Obama passes that test.”

No one can say that Mark Sanford’s life has been without drama!

It is fine for the President to continue without drama as long as his plan includes a hard look at the bureaucracy.

Photograph of the President: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

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