EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 16, 2013

Column: Obama's next year will define his presidency

Dan K. Thomasson
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Much of what Barack Obama has cooking seems to come out half-baked. Maybe it is because as a political chef he seems unwilling to make certain of the ingredients and refuses to stay home to watch the oven.

Well, maybe I’ve been watching too many of those ubiquitous short order shows on television, but I think you get my drift. The problem is obviously a lack of attentiveness to detail and a penchant for constant campaigning. He seems more comfortable in crowds than with those one on one or so confrontations that are mostly necessary to good governance.

The “bully pulpit” can carry one only so far -- then down and dirty, head knocking, nose-to-nose face-offs and trades are the only solution. It’s hard work and one has to be willing to mix compromise with threat to get where he wants to go in the partisan war zone this town increasingly has become. As a former community organizer, one would have thought Obama would have developed some of the skills necessary for just such a fight. He obviously hasn’t.

Big ideas are great but without a sense of practicality they remain ideas. It’s important to know what is achievable and what isn’t. There is no “I’ll take what I can get” with this president. The result so far has been a domestic wasteland. Issues like immigration, transportation, education or any of a half-dozen other major problems have been displaced by constant warfare over the Affordable Care Act. Problems mount daily and now the specter of fraud is looming over the giant program even in its start-up phase as bunko artists reportedly try to take advantage of the confusion to sign up applicants with phony policies and identity theft.

As he winds down his fifth year in office, he faces a window on historic accomplishment that is quickly closing. The next 13 or 14 months will define his presidency as either high up in the pantheon of the office or at best mediocre. It will not be enough to merely have the distinction of being the first of his race to hold it. His chances of making his lofty goals a reality will give way pretty much to presiding over the chaotic scramble to replace him and his party for the next two years.

If one needs evidence of his refusal to pay attention to detail consider the fact that he almost single-handedly cost his party the governorship of Virginia. A 10-point lead by Democrat Terry McAuliffe all but disappeared in the 10 days before the election in a landslide of protest over Obama’s continuing inability to get things straight about the lethal small stuff in the Affordable Care Act. And that’s despite the fact his Republican opponent was carrying more baggage than a member of the railroad porter’s union.

It became abundantly clear that even the president himself had no clue about the ramifications of this 2,700-page monstrosity.

Millions of Americans were receiving notice from their insurance companies that they would have to give up their current policies despite the president’s campaign promises to the contrary. All this was taking place as Virginians were preparing to head for the polls and the Republican candidate made the best of it.

Obama and the Democrats who helped him foolishly tried to overhaul 18 percent of the economy without public or bipartisan political support. They now face the prospect of losing the advantage over the GOP brought about by the enormous political shortcomings of the radical tea party wing.

As a 50-year veteran of this burg’s seemingly never ending political battles, I have watched in total wonder the administration’s health-care debacle and what it has done to the body politic. Mistakes made by the president and his novice staff continue to mount. Allowing the unrestrained drafting of the reform and then its passage without Republican input or support damned it from the start. Not one single vote was cast for it by the Republicans making it a one-party act despite its enormous scope and disruption -- an historic first.

The next 12 months before the midterm elections are going to be a continuation of the fight over the program’s failings.

Good luck with explaining that, Mr. President, as you stump the country.

Dan K. Thomasson is the former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.