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"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."
--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Monday, October 10, 2011
The Incredible Shrinking President
This is actually not a funny portrait by Michael Goodwin in yesterday's New York Post:
The reports are not good, disturbing even. I have heard basically the same story four times in the last 10 days, and the people doing the talking are in New York and Washington and are spread across the political spectrum.
The gist is this: President Obama has become a lone wolf, a stranger to his own government. He talks mostly, and sometimes only, to friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett and to David Axelrod, his political strategist.
Everybody else, including members of his Cabinet, have little face time with him except for brief meetings that serve as photo ops. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner both have complained, according to people who have talked to them, that they are shut out of important decisions.
President Obama has become a lone wolf, a stranger to his own government.
The president’s workdays are said to end early, often at 4 p.m. He usually has dinner in the family residence with his wife and daughters, then retreats to a private office. One person said he takes a stack of briefing books. Others aren’t sure what he does.
If the reports are accurate, and I believe they are, they paint a picture of an isolated man trapped in a collapsing presidency.
I have seen reports like this only in what I would call "fringe" Internet sources -- mostly from the anonymous blogger "Ulsterman" and his anonymous "White House Insider." I believed them, because they rang true psychologically to me. This is what it would look like if a not-that-smart-but-incredibly-arrogant political novice got elected President on a wave of hopey-changey happy talk, and then had to confront an intractable reality ill-equipped by experience, talent, or temperament. He would sink into a smaller and smaller sphere, afraid of being humiliated, afraid of being in a room with grownups who know the score. But I had never seen this kind of spooky reporting in a mainstream outlet... the portrait of Obama here is scary, sad, "disturbing."