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Sunday, September 25, 2016

WASHINGTON — If a president finds himself in the role of a political scientist, he has a problem — even when his political science lesson is 100 percent accurate.

When President Obama was asked by Jonathan Karl of ABC News at his Tuesday news conference whether he still had “the juice” to get his agenda through Congress, I wish he had replied, “Lighten up. This is the country where hope lives.”

He could have used the flow of the news to make this case. For example, many of the senators who sided with the gun lobby against the vast majority of Americans who favor background checks — particularly Kelly Ayotte, Jeff Flake and Rob Portman — are taking enormous grief from their constituents.

This shows that one defeat on one vote is not a permanent setback when the tally in question reflects an old reality (that only hardcore gun owners care about the issue) and ignores a new reality (that supporters of gun sanity are finally mobilized, and angry). On guns, the times are changing.

They are changing on other issues, too. Obama’s warm praise for the decision of the NBA’s Jason Collins to come out as gay was uncontroversial. If you think back just a decade or two, this is astonishing. And if immigration reform is no slam-dunk, the politics have shifted sharply toward action.

Add to this a New York Times/CBS News poll released Wednesday showing that while 46 percent of Americans believe the sequester cuts will hurt the economy, only 1 in 10 thinks they will help it. The austerity Republicans champion has few takers.

Obama lightly touched on some of these themes, but in answering Karl’s question, he seemed more impatient and analytical than optimistic.

“We understand that we’re in divided government right now,” the president said. “Republicans control the House of Representatives. In the Senate, this habit of requiring 60 votes for even the most modest piece of legislation has gummed up the works there. … Things are pretty dysfunctional up on Capitol Hill.” He went on to note that the base of the Republican Party “thinks that compromise with me is somehow a betrayal. They’re worried about primaries.”

  • I support most of the policies advanced by President Obama, and I believe he deserves credit for tackling social and economic issues that most of his predecessors have avoided, but I agree with Mr. Dionne, his most important attribute are his charisma and populist message. He must resurrect the old Barack Obama if he wants to bring what remains of his ambitious agenda to a successful end. Like most presidents during their second term, he will become largely irrelevant after the 2014 election, when the focus will shift to those running in 2016. Time is running out for him.

  • charleo1

    Of all the unfair criticism leveled at this President, and there has been
    a ton of it. Perhaps, the most unfair is the notion that, if he were just
    more like, LBJ, or Ronald Reagan, in mustering the support in Congress
    for his agenda, we wouldn’t have all this dysfunction, and rancor on
    Capital Hill. That he has been too aloof. Or, he hasn’t spent more
    time consuming alcohol, back slapping and cajoling, the Republicans
    to get their support. Which is total BS. Give Obama LBJ’s, or Ronald
    Reagan’s Congress, and then, we’ll talk. And while we’re at it, give Obama
    an economy with a structure, and the underlying strength, and resiliency
    it had 40 years ago. Then throw out the unrelenting obstruction by the GOP,
    and we’ll compare economic policies all day long. But, we as a Country, will
    probably not do that. We have a tradition to uphold. We hold our Presidents
    accountable, in this Country. For most everything, the buck stops there.
    But, the Right Wing has taken this rather absurd tradition, and expanded it
    with this President, into an illogical, insanity. And, in doing so, they have also
    crippled, and corrupted their own Party. No longer is their selection process
    able to produce pragmatic candidates, with sensible policies. Only ideologues.
    Who are in support of, only that which is aganist. Where bipartisanship of any
    kind, is swiftly, and harshly, dealt with in their primary process. Where in order
    to win, they must place upon themselves the tight political straight jacket. That
    takes from their hands, even before they take their seat in government, their
    ability to use their own judgement on a matter. The President may as well
    spend his time, petting, and playing with Bo, his dog. Because Bo, is as
    incapable of voting his own preference, as the Republican caucus is, of voting theirs.