The next time I'm ever asked to give a would-be presidential candidate some advice -- which for all of our sakes, will hopefully be never -- one thing I'd recommend is that you don't make any grandiose promises to "change Washington." More than anything else, this is the promise that the political press keeps throwing at the feet of the White House, because President Barack Obama promised to do something about it.
Now, when he made those promises, I'm sure he was talking about the overarching and unholy network of lobbyists and favor-traders and what can one say? Witness how your Affordable Care Act was birthed into this world, and, yes: ha ha. But it's increasingly clear that beyond all of K Street's toxins, the one thing that's never going to change about Washington is the unrelenting, inhuman pettiness of the place.
If you had the misfortune of watching Chris Matthews' show this weekend, then you'd know that it is the esteemed opinion of the Beltway elite that facing a long war in Afghanistan and brutal economic tides at home, the thing that the president needs to do with all deliberate haste is to go have more steak dinners with lawmakers, and invite John Boehner over to the White House to play poker and drink Merlot. Because two years of strategic legislative obstruction was actually, all this while, a broad comment on social niceties!
Politico takes up this matter today, with gusto, darkly alluding to the way in which Obama has become isolated. There are matters that tilt toward substance, such as Alex Sink's complaint that the White House's overall "tone-deafness" contributed to her loss in the Florida gubernatorial race. I don't cherish the idea of record-setting fraudster Rick Scott ascending in the world of politics any more than Alex Sink does, but let's remember that somehow, Alex Sink lost an election to a record-setting fraudster! Maybe the race wouldn't have been as close if Sink had drawn, say, Nosferatu as her opponent, instead?
In fairness to Sink and other election night roadkill, the more substantive complaint is that the robust campaign organization that was built in 2008 to catapult Obama to the White House has clearly fallen into disrepair. It's hard to say what happened, there. Part of me suspects that once the campaign engineers of yesteryear got Obama to the White House, they considered the game won. But it also appears that the Democratic party's organizing infrastructure suffered greatly with Tim Kaine at the helm of the DNC. When Kaine came on the "Daily Show", late in the season, to brag about having been to "almost forty-two states," it seemed to me that little schoolchildren would not one day sing songs about the astounding "Almost Forty-Two State Strategy" the changed America forever.
Those matters are definitely worth exploring. However, this sort of crap, that Politico packs into its case study of isolation, is not:
When Obama was giving the commencement address in the University of Michigan's "Big House" stadium last May, he mingled in the home-team locker room with university deans and regents. Across the tunnel, in the visitors' locker room, several members of Michigan's Democratic congressional delegation -- including Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin and House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr. -- waited patiently.
Some had brought grandchildren so they could get their picture taken with the president. But they never got to see him. Obama didn't cross the tunnel to see the lawmakers.
Really? I'm supposed to feel sorry for these Michigan lawmakers, who were so demoralized by the failure of the president to provide some perk to their privileged grandchildren that they plumb forgot to get motivated to do something about their state's massive unemployment problem?
There's a whole litany of these petty complaints: someone didn't get their hand shaken, someone didn't get invited to a party, someone did get invited to a party but expected to have a lot more fun and feel a lot more important than they ended up having or feeling. The whole thing makes me think about the Curious Case Of Evan Bayh, who got everything he wanted out of every legislative debate he waged in the past two years and still felt slighted enough to abandon his safe Senate seat, go home, and keep his colleagues from using his campaign warchest when they needed it most.
The aristocracy is having a full-on crisis of self-worth, thanks to the president!
One well-known Democrat summed up the cost of the slights and the seeming indifference to basic political courtesies this way: "These are little things that are not going to affect public perceptions. But it affects the infrastructure of how you put together a campaign. These are the people that you need to raise money, to give money, to organize, to show up, to speak out."
And to think that many people probably have the "public perception" that "well-known Democrats" are motivated to "raise money" and "organize" and "show up" and "speak out" because of genuine concerns for the welfare and well-being of their constituents, or because of deeply-held beliefs. As it turns out, this is not the case.
But fear not, nation of unemployed people: President Obama is going to host a series of potluck canasta soirees that are going to make everything better!
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