Faced with some concern that his second term is not off to the kind of start that ultimately will produce a positive historic legacy, President Barack Obama has finally begun to reach out on a personal basis to select Republicans to try to break the debilitating impasse in Congress.
It’s about time. At stake is a whole raft of initiatives on which he has counted to boost his legacy.
His performance since Inauguration Day barely has rated a C grade. His disdain for serious negotiation has been almost monumental, and his continuing use of campaign-like attack rhetoric in forums around the nation has managed only to lower his job approval rating. The most recent Gallup Poll showed it at 47 percent, down from 53 percent in January.
The electorate obviously was unmoved by the dire predictions he spouted about the damage that sequestration would bring, although the verdict is still out on the matter. Too much crying wolf has done the predictable. Look at the stock market following the dread sequestration — record highs. Wall Street had heard the warnings once too often.
Even a grandstand ploy like suspending White House tours because of budget concerns hasn’t impressed many despite the fact the shutdown comes just before the Easter holiday when the town is jammed with tourists, many of them school children, willing to stand in long lines for hours to see the presidential palace.
Perhaps the cynicism toward such moves has increased by an offsetting decision or two like the Treasury Department’s pushing for a $65 billion increase in U.S. donations to the International Monetary Fund while we are told of looming federal job layoffs. Actually the number is 750,000 if sequestration lasts until September, according to the Congressional Budget office. Why would the Treasury act now? The IMF increase has been pending for three years. The mandated government-wide spending cuts amount to only $85 billion, for crying out loud.