Can Obama Learn How to Govern?

Did you see the press conference that President Obama held on Friday? He proposed eliminating the Commerce Department. It was a well orchestrated media event, worthy of the kind of press conference Presidents call in Hollywood movies. There's the bold proposal to eliminate an entire cabinet level department, the President speaking in a forceful and commanding tone and the explanation of how every single detail will work.

Main stream and cable media outlets picked it up almost instantly and reported it as a bold proposal that was all but written in stone.

Tweets and Facebook posts rang out across the internet universe declaring the death of the Commerce Department.

There is only one, teeny, tiny problem with all this: Congress is not inclined to give the Executive Branch the power to make such a big change without consultation.

Congress would have to give the President the sweeping authority to eliminate cabinet level departments with only a straight up or down Congressional vote. Congress would not be allowed to make any significant changes to whatever eliminations the President recommends.

There is another problem that has become all to common with the Obama administration. No one in the White House thought it would be wise to call various members of Congress to let them know the President was going to propose this at all, let alone at a major press conference. No one called the Democratic leadership nor the Republican members of the House or Senate.

The proposal is unlikely to pass either chamber of Congress. There already seems to be bilateral opposition to the proposal.

This latest episode requires an answer to a very serious question: Does the Obama Administration know how to govern the country?

This proposal to eliminate the Commerce department and streamline the federal government's business and trade function is not a bad one. There is some real meat in it.

However, if the Obama administration really wanted to get it passed, they would have simply proposed it to Congress during the upcoming State of the Union and not asked for sweeping authority to do it unilaterally. Further, they would've called all the relevant House and Senate members, about 15 - 20 total calls and sought input and guidance before rolling out something in public. They certainly would not call a press conference before even notifying members of Congress and they would not roll out the President himself to propose it.

Some political gurus say it was just a ploy to force Congress to look silly while casting the President as a rational leader. In other words, there was no policy in this move, it was purely political.

What if it wasn't? Or what if it was half political and half serious policy?

Judging by the last three years of fumbles from the Obama White House, we can not assume that they were intentionally dumb with this proposal's roll out. We can't assume it's an act of genius cloaked in the appearance of dysfunction.

There is at least a 50/50 chance that the President really wants this Commerce Department elimination to happen exactly as he rolled out and that his advisors really believe they can shove a bill through Congress without consultation on Capitol Hill. In their blind arrogance, this White House seems to think that talking to Congressmen and Senators is beneath them. It is unnecessary, as they are merely part of the national rabble who simply need to shut up and follow orders from King Obama the First.

The arrogance of this White House starts with the man at the top of the administration and not even Rahm Emanuel or Bill Daley were able to scare some humbleness into the staff.

Perhaps the biggest threat to Obama's re-election is the narrative that is getting louder every day: he simply does not know how to govern and is not interested in learning. President Obama knows politics. He knows history. He understands complex bureaucracies and more legal maneuvering than a federal judge. Governing is one category that is just not coming to him.

President Obama is in full campaign mode and thus this game he is playing with Congress is probably just a big joke. However, if he serves a second term, is there any reason to believe that what appears as a joke today will be anything different in a second term? Ideally, a president uses his first term to learn the ropes, push the boundaries, center himself and then in a second term they can use all they have learned and apply it on situations and legislation they truly believe in.

Because of this president's arrogance, he has clearly not learned much about governing in his first term and Friday was another reminder of that. Perhaps the most arrogant thing President Obama can do is ask for a second term having accomplished so little and learned even less in his first four years.



Filed under: National Goverment

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