Tuesday morning, a peculiar announcement trickled out of the White House press office: President Barack Obama would be holding a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston bombings. At the White House. By himself. No press or other intruders allowed.
That Obama assumed Americans would want an iconic photo of him privately mourning the victims of the bombings was emblematic of a kind of hubris that has enveloped the president and his White House as the president commences his second term.Hubris in a leader is an obnoxious thing, leading to imperiousness in governing. And it’s also a dangerous thing for a second-term president, often spelling trouble.
Unfortunately, this president’s acts of high handedness and self-absorption have been accumulating in the past several months at a blistering pace.
Even as the nation’s workers wilted under a struggling economy and high unemployment, Obama decided to take two round excursions to Hawaii at taxpayer expense over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Just six weeks later, he jetted down to Florida for a luxury four-day golf vacation where he played with Tiger Woods. Meanwhile Michelle Obama also took another vacation, skiing in Colorado.
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Even as the sequester began to force those who work for him in the federal government to take furloughs and government services were scaled back – including, famously, the White House tours – Obama stepped up his golf, roaring out of the White House in his motorcade three Saturdays in a row for the 50-minute round trip drive to the Joint Base Andrews course.
In a true Marie Antoinette moment, Obama offered to pare back his pay by five percent as a show of empathy for those being furloughed. At annual salary of $400,000, that would force him to get by on a meager $380,000, in addition to a couple of hundred thousand extra dollars he can probably expect to make this year from book sales.
He had Memphis soul music legends throw a command performance for himself and the first lady in the East Room. He commended California’s attorney general for being the hottest of all the state AGs. He gave himself an exclusive viewing in the White House theater of the Jackie Robinson biopic, “42.”
On Saturday night, he’ll be partying with journalists and their celebrity guests at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association bash.
All while the nation continues to suffer under his stewardship of the economy.
When gun legislation he backed failed to pass last week, he threw an epic hissy fit in the Rose Garden, proclaiming his opponents liars who thought “it wasn’t worth it” to protect kids from gun violence.
He said contemptuously that what “binds Republicans together” is their commitment to helping the rich. He delivered his budget two months late to Congress.
Such disregard for appearances and disdain for his opposition suggests a president who perceives himself as free from the fetters that keep normal people in line and give presidents a sense of perspective.
Obama is already giving off that “L’etat, c’est moi” vibe, effectively legislating from the Oval OfficeHe is picking and choosing which laws to enforce – like deciding not to deport certain groups of immigrants who would have been protected by the failed Dream Act and opting not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.
This could be just the beginning. He vowed last week, as he has in the past, to advance his gun control agenda on his own. “Even without Congress, my administration will keep doing everything it can to protect more of our communities,” Obama said.
The vast new Obamacare law gives him an endless array of regulations to implement, offering a cornucopia of opportunities to interpret the statute in ways that give him powers he shouldn’t have. The 900-page immigration bill may do the same, should it pass.
But hubris may not only lead a president to stretch power, it can result in abuse of power.
Certainly the core of Watergate was corruption, but only a sense of hubris could have convinced Richard Nixon – late in his first term – that he could get away with the covering it up.
When Bill Clinton bounded out of the White House residence to see Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office, he had to believe he was impervious to the rules that govern others – not just because of his behavior, but because he thought he wouldn’t get caught in flagrante delicto in the fishbowl that is the White House.
And what special exemption from reality did Ronald Reagan think he had when he convinced himself that he wasn’t paying ransom when he sent arms to Iran to try to secure the release of hostages the controlled in Lebanon?
If Obama starts to get too grand a sense of himself and sheds the last vestiges of concern for how others perceive him, it could lead him, as it has so many in positions of power, to believe he is beyond accountability. And that could end up as a tragedy for him, and for the nation. source – Politico
Keith Koffler, who covered the White House as a reporter for CongressDaily and Roll Call, is editor of the blog White House Dossier.