EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 2, 2014

Column: Obama needs to develop a tougher edge

During a news conference, then-President Bill Clinton, who was going through one of the many rough patches of his White House days, was asked if he was still relevant.

Startled and then grim-faced, Clinton struggled to assert that, yes, the president of the United States was relevant. Awkward.

President Obama is going through something similar. His poll numbers are abysmal. Dweebs no longer shout that he lies but walk out while he’s speaking. His pleas to Congress on behalf of popular programs such as providing workers with a living wage fall on deaf ears.

Obama is too classy to jump up and down, red-faced, shouting for us to pay attention. Nonetheless his strategy might have made a mistake. Frustrated that the divided Congress and balking Republicans in particular are giving him little but grief, Obama keeps declaring he’s going to do whatever he can by executive action to push his agenda. Not surprisingly, Republicans have been jumping up and down, red-faced, shouting he’s ignoring them.

Better that he had just gone ahead and done what he wanted without raising a red flag by announcing that he “will not stand still” on the sidelines while Congress bickers ineffectually.

Meanwhile, Obama’s huge campaign apparatus is switching loyalties to Hillary Clinton before she has even affirmed she wants to be president. The implication is that Obama is done; stick a fork in him, despite the very obvious fact that he still has three years in office. Darn right that politics ain’t bean bag.

In a contemplative interview recently, Obama noted the passage of history, remarking that presidents come and go and contribute bits and pieces. Oh. Oh. The legacy thing has started to bug him.

It is not too late for Obama to make his presence felt. There are signs that mainstream Republicans, even mercurial House Speaker John Boehner, are feeling voter ire for dismissing everything Obama tries to do out of hand. Maybe they’ll be a little more responsive on issues of national importance. After two years of arguing, the House passed a farm bill although poor children in 15 states will get only half the food they eat now even after a huge cut last November.

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