The Emperor's New Close

While President Obama natters over the specter of illegal alien families being “torn apart” by deportation, he seems oblivious to another schism that could negatively impact his party -- and the nation -- for years to come. It’s no secret that the president’s proposed executive actions are intended to nail down the Hispanic vote and ultimately ensure that only Democrats occupy the Oval Office. But there’s a catch. At the rate things are going, there may not be any prominent Democrats out there to run.

This year’s midterm elections not only shellacked the Democrats, as even the liberal press has admitted, it more importantly cut off the lifeblood of many would-be liberal leaders. Even in deep blue strongholds like Illinois and Massachusetts, Democratic senators, governors and congressional representatives have been replaced by up-and-coming Republicans.

Not that this reversal of fortune hasn’t happened before, and to both parties. The difference this time is that it was so deep and devastating, it all but depleted the Democrat bench of chief executive possibilities. It’s like an entire football squad being suspended. Only in this case, the same players are not likely to be coming back on the field anytime soon, if ever. A whole new Democratic team will have to be assembled, and that takes time. Many electoral seasons, at least.

Part of this debacle is of Obama’s own doing. I’m not alluding to the president’s current unpopularity. As long as the American electorate remains fickle, flexible, and forgiving  with its Chief Executives, that element can change quickly enough, as we have seen in the case of Bill Clinton. But the legacy of a president is not measured solely by how well he governed, but by how well he nurtured those who would govern after him.

Most 20th-century presidents chose as their running mates men and women who were younger than they -- of a generation that could appeal to voters in ways that the top of the ticket could not. In a real sense, they were grooming these running mates to grasp the political baton and run with it in the future. That didn’t always work out, of course, but the effort was made. Eisenhower tapped Nixon; Reagan chose George H W. Bush, who later picked Dan Quayle. Bill Clinton campaigned into the new century with Al Gore, a young man his own age. Even the losing candidates made an effort to select running mates who might represent America’s future, not her past. Kerry went with John Edwards. McCain surprised everyone by his choice of Sarah Palin. Romney joined forces with Paul Ryan.

But not Barack Obama. Rather than choose from the short list of Democrats who could grow to future recognition and possibly become his logical successor, he went with Joe Biden. “I like Old Joe,” he candidly remarked, when some Democratic operatives wanted to replace Biden on the 2012 ticket with Hillary Clinton. Gaffe-A-Minute Joe offers his boss no competition whatsoever -- and Obama likes it that way. He is used to being the one befriended, encouraged, coddled, praised, promoted, and pushed up the ladder by others. It has never occurred to him, apparently, to return the favor.

Not that President Obama wouldn’t have liked the opportunity to get out on the stump this year and “sing the praises” of any number of Democrats struggling to keep their seats. He is good at that sort of thing, because the adulation of crowds feeds his ego as much as it presumably helps the candidates. But this year it was generally agreed that Obama’s appearance would be more of a hindrance than a help, and he was invited only to the safest of districts to bask in the heat of those who still give him unconditional love.    

To explain away his prior inaction on immigration “reform,” Obama has often told impatient Hispanic activists that he is, after all, a president, not an emperor. Yet he displays the phobias of many monarchs. As Shakespeare observed, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” And these days, Obama is very ill at ease and in fear of becoming as paranoid as Richard Nixon. Instead of encouraging attractive viable Democrats to follow in his footsteps to the White House, he has run a tightly-wound, insular, secretive, contentious, and nontransparent administration in which even partisans are rarely welcomed to the Oval Office, much less to the Obama inner circle. The result is that the only seriously viable Democrat presidential contender in 2016 is Hillary Clinton, whom it is generally acknowledged to be intensely disliked by Obama. 

And the feeling is mutual. So while President Obama bit the bullet in order to get Hillary’s popular spouse to campaign for him in 2012, the next go-around may find him blessedly sidelined from returning the favor and campaigning for Hillary. 

With Obama it has always been about him. He falsified, misrepresented, and shoved through the Affordable Care Act in order to be the first to do so. He surrounded himself for six years with long-time cronies like Eric Holder and Valerie Jarett to insure allegiance and avoid conflict, which inevitably happened anyway. He is a rather indolent procrastinator, who spends too much of his time -- and ours -- unprofitably figuring out ways to make himself look better than he is.

So Obama’s actual legacy will not be the legislation or executive orders he signs, but the way he hasn’t bothered to sign off on anyone who could be perceived as his successor. He didn’t exactly poison them, as was the sometime practice of emperors in the past. But he has poisoned their chances by not giving them greater face time in his administration.

Last year I asked my Democrat brother whom he thought could run for president if Hillary demurs.  He pondered a while and came up with Mark Warner of Virginia, who he represented as being both attractive and sufficiently moderate for independents and maybe even some Republicans. But in the midterm election, incumbent Senator Warner was almost beaten by a Republican who, according to predictions, hadn’t a ghost of a chance. With better polling and more dough thrown into his campaign, perhaps Ed Gillespie would have won. But the point is that Mark Warner’s credibility has suffered. And a guy who barely squeaks by in his reelection bid is not likely to run for president in 2016. 

It is typical that during his presidency Obama has not bothered to shine the spotlight on anyone who might compete for his job down the line. FDR was somewhat like that.  He changed running mates with each new electoral challenge. The last time around, he did the Missouri Pendergast machine a favor by tapping a senator named Harry Truman, in whom he showed such lack of interest he didn’t even bother to inform him beforehand that America was testing an atomic bomb. FDR thought of himself as the quintessential president whose role could not easily be filled by anyone else. Bill Clinton shares the same narcissistic view.  And so, it seems, does Barack Obama. 

In any event, the two congressional stalwarts who have done this president’s bidding, Pelosi and Reid, are also up in years and likely at the end of their careers in government. If the Democratic bench looks eerily empty, it’s because Obama was too busy playing his own game to worry about future skirmishes. As an immediate result, Democrats in 2016 will have to learn to accept Hillary as the only dame in town.

If she wins, who will be waiting four or eight wearisome years hence in the presidential wings? Maybe the irony is that Obama’s  unprecedented executive push to create millions of new Democratic voters could work in Hillary Clinton’s favor, even though in his heart of hearts he hopes his old nemesis goes down to defeat.

While President Obama natters over the specter of illegal alien families being “torn apart” by deportation, he seems oblivious to another schism that could negatively impact his party -- and the nation -- for years to come. It’s no secret that the president’s proposed executive actions are intended to nail down the Hispanic vote and ultimately ensure that only Democrats occupy the Oval Office. But there’s a catch. At the rate things are going, there may not be any prominent Democrats out there to run.

This year’s midterm elections not only shellacked the Democrats, as even the liberal press has admitted, it more importantly cut off the lifeblood of many would-be liberal leaders. Even in deep blue strongholds like Illinois and Massachusetts, Democratic senators, governors and congressional representatives have been replaced by up-and-coming Republicans.

Not that this reversal of fortune hasn’t happened before, and to both parties. The difference this time is that it was so deep and devastating, it all but depleted the Democrat bench of chief executive possibilities. It’s like an entire football squad being suspended. Only in this case, the same players are not likely to be coming back on the field anytime soon, if ever. A whole new Democratic team will have to be assembled, and that takes time. Many electoral seasons, at least.

Part of this debacle is of Obama’s own doing. I’m not alluding to the president’s current unpopularity. As long as the American electorate remains fickle, flexible, and forgiving  with its Chief Executives, that element can change quickly enough, as we have seen in the case of Bill Clinton. But the legacy of a president is not measured solely by how well he governed, but by how well he nurtured those who would govern after him.

Most 20th-century presidents chose as their running mates men and women who were younger than they -- of a generation that could appeal to voters in ways that the top of the ticket could not. In a real sense, they were grooming these running mates to grasp the political baton and run with it in the future. That didn’t always work out, of course, but the effort was made. Eisenhower tapped Nixon; Reagan chose George H W. Bush, who later picked Dan Quayle. Bill Clinton campaigned into the new century with Al Gore, a young man his own age. Even the losing candidates made an effort to select running mates who might represent America’s future, not her past. Kerry went with John Edwards. McCain surprised everyone by his choice of Sarah Palin. Romney joined forces with Paul Ryan.

But not Barack Obama. Rather than choose from the short list of Democrats who could grow to future recognition and possibly become his logical successor, he went with Joe Biden. “I like Old Joe,” he candidly remarked, when some Democratic operatives wanted to replace Biden on the 2012 ticket with Hillary Clinton. Gaffe-A-Minute Joe offers his boss no competition whatsoever -- and Obama likes it that way. He is used to being the one befriended, encouraged, coddled, praised, promoted, and pushed up the ladder by others. It has never occurred to him, apparently, to return the favor.

Not that President Obama wouldn’t have liked the opportunity to get out on the stump this year and “sing the praises” of any number of Democrats struggling to keep their seats. He is good at that sort of thing, because the adulation of crowds feeds his ego as much as it presumably helps the candidates. But this year it was generally agreed that Obama’s appearance would be more of a hindrance than a help, and he was invited only to the safest of districts to bask in the heat of those who still give him unconditional love.    

To explain away his prior inaction on immigration “reform,” Obama has often told impatient Hispanic activists that he is, after all, a president, not an emperor. Yet he displays the phobias of many monarchs. As Shakespeare observed, “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.” And these days, Obama is very ill at ease and in fear of becoming as paranoid as Richard Nixon. Instead of encouraging attractive viable Democrats to follow in his footsteps to the White House, he has run a tightly-wound, insular, secretive, contentious, and nontransparent administration in which even partisans are rarely welcomed to the Oval Office, much less to the Obama inner circle. The result is that the only seriously viable Democrat presidential contender in 2016 is Hillary Clinton, whom it is generally acknowledged to be intensely disliked by Obama. 

And the feeling is mutual. So while President Obama bit the bullet in order to get Hillary’s popular spouse to campaign for him in 2012, the next go-around may find him blessedly sidelined from returning the favor and campaigning for Hillary. 

With Obama it has always been about him. He falsified, misrepresented, and shoved through the Affordable Care Act in order to be the first to do so. He surrounded himself for six years with long-time cronies like Eric Holder and Valerie Jarett to insure allegiance and avoid conflict, which inevitably happened anyway. He is a rather indolent procrastinator, who spends too much of his time -- and ours -- unprofitably figuring out ways to make himself look better than he is.

So Obama’s actual legacy will not be the legislation or executive orders he signs, but the way he hasn’t bothered to sign off on anyone who could be perceived as his successor. He didn’t exactly poison them, as was the sometime practice of emperors in the past. But he has poisoned their chances by not giving them greater face time in his administration.

Last year I asked my Democrat brother whom he thought could run for president if Hillary demurs.  He pondered a while and came up with Mark Warner of Virginia, who he represented as being both attractive and sufficiently moderate for independents and maybe even some Republicans. But in the midterm election, incumbent Senator Warner was almost beaten by a Republican who, according to predictions, hadn’t a ghost of a chance. With better polling and more dough thrown into his campaign, perhaps Ed Gillespie would have won. But the point is that Mark Warner’s credibility has suffered. And a guy who barely squeaks by in his reelection bid is not likely to run for president in 2016. 

It is typical that during his presidency Obama has not bothered to shine the spotlight on anyone who might compete for his job down the line. FDR was somewhat like that.  He changed running mates with each new electoral challenge. The last time around, he did the Missouri Pendergast machine a favor by tapping a senator named Harry Truman, in whom he showed such lack of interest he didn’t even bother to inform him beforehand that America was testing an atomic bomb. FDR thought of himself as the quintessential president whose role could not easily be filled by anyone else. Bill Clinton shares the same narcissistic view.  And so, it seems, does Barack Obama. 

In any event, the two congressional stalwarts who have done this president’s bidding, Pelosi and Reid, are also up in years and likely at the end of their careers in government. If the Democratic bench looks eerily empty, it’s because Obama was too busy playing his own game to worry about future skirmishes. As an immediate result, Democrats in 2016 will have to learn to accept Hillary as the only dame in town.

If she wins, who will be waiting four or eight wearisome years hence in the presidential wings? Maybe the irony is that Obama’s  unprecedented executive push to create millions of new Democratic voters could work in Hillary Clinton’s favor, even though in his heart of hearts he hopes his old nemesis goes down to defeat.