It doesn’t take a Washington insider to suspect that the White House has a back channel to the Supreme Court, knows how the justices have come down in the Obamacare case and has learned, from the Obama point of view, the news isn’t good.
The president’s defiance and what appeared to be his campaign of intimidation targeting the justices has morphed into barely concealed resignation over the last seven days.
That widely noted New York Times story of the weekend is a case in point. It detailed how the smartest crowd (hasn’t the MSM assured us of it) that has ever inhabited the nation’s Executive Mansion failed ever seriously to consider that seizing control over one-seventh of the American economy and forcing every American to buy a commercial product might, just might, run afoul of our constitution of liberty.
The Times works closely with this Obama White House in a way that would send every MSM outlet into rants of recrimination were the president a Republican receiving comparable coverage from Fox News. The story seemed to be an attempt to inoculate the major players from the political plague that most in this town assume will follow the Court’s decision, now assumed to be coming Thursday.
But far from exonerating the White House crowd, the story was an amazing confession of cluelessness up and down the line. Those around the president listened only to their partisans when evaluating the constitutional issues Obamacare raised — just as they listened only to the same kind of people when counting the program’s costs.
But then, what’s new? Don’t we have here just another example of the president’s peculiar penchant for freezing out even potential friends who are not part of his inner circle? According to Irwin Stelzer in last week’s Weekly Standard, even leaders of the supposedly worshipful Europeans refuse to do Mr. Obama the political favors that they would readily have done for George W. Bush, in part because this president is so off-puttingly cold, removed and self-absorbed when with them.
We have heard the same story from “tingle up the leg” Chris Matthews – the president doesn’t like or want to mingle with people. According to Matthews (you can find the clip on YouTube), this is a part of his problem with Congress. Three and a half years into his term, even members of his own party on Capitol Hill do not feel comfortable dealing with Mr. Obama.
Of course, you wouldn’t know it from the sanctimony of West Wing spokespeople and other Administration mouthpieces. But, then, this White House looks to work like a cult, demanding no utterances at odds with the leader’s line. So now all of Washington is betting — and body language out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue all but confirms — that the president and his allies are about to pay for their insularity.
Too much is made of the role of presidential staff in putting out messages and managing the news. An equally critical (actually more critical) role is reporting the news — acting as a tuning fork, picking up and transmitting to the ear of the commander in chief the nation’s vibrations — good, bad and ugly. That way, when the president speaks, he can do it with perfect pitch.
But White Houses take on the character of the man at the top. If the president prizes careful listening, the staff will take pains to hear just about everyone who wants to talk to them. So what happens when you have a president like Mr. Obama who will not seriously listen to anyone with divergent views? As he told the House GOP caucus in the first weeks of his presidency, “I won.” Apparently, he doesn’t need to listen to such lowlifes – and taking their cue from his, his staff doesn’t either.
This White House will (as eventually it always does) point a finger at someone else, if the High Court’s healthcare decision proves as bad for them as they apparently believe. But as they have already pointed out with out-of-character candor this past weekend, they – and their president — will have done it to themselves.