Yesterday, Barack Obama held a press conference following Tuesday’s referendum election on his policies and competence to execute them. Overall, the presser sounded more like a cut-and-paste stump speech, repeating the same themes over and over and essentially refusing to answer questions from a somewhat emboldened press corps. The president did, however, know the voter turnout percentage, referencing it twice.
He was questioned by five separate reporters (Julie Pace, Ed Henry, Jim Acosta, Chris Jansing, and Jeff Mason) regarding his personal impact on the election and whether a course change was due. In each case, he reiterated his refusal to attempt to “read the tea leaves” and gave vague, long-winded non-answers.
Unlike Bill Clinton, who accepted responsibility for his first mid-term drubbing, Obama fell back on his narcissistic need not to be the focus of blame. I’m actually surprised he didn’t blame George W. Bush. By implication he blamed the two thirds of registered voters who failed to turn out, a comment that was also likely a criticism of the vaunted Democratic turnout machine. Said Obama:
To the one third of voters who turned out, I hear you. And to the two thirds who did not show up, I hear you too.
One must wonder exactly what he heard because if indeed he heard anything it was not evident in his remarks. It was clear that any significant adjustment in West Wing behaviors was not in the offing.
The president was repeatedly questioned about cooperation with Republicans. He stuck to three talking points: that he would reach out, that he wanted to see what the Republican Congressional agenda would be, and whether there were areas of “overlap.” One might respectfully suggest to the president that the three hundred-plus bills sitting on outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s desk, passed by the House, might be a reasonable reflection of the GOP agenda. Or, perhaps, the issues addressed in the election races might provide a hint or two.
On one issue, immigration reform, he refused to back off from his threat to unilaterally execute policy despite a statement by presumptive Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in advance of the president’s appearance that such action would “poison the well.”
In the end, an expanding Republican majority in the House (largest since Hoover), a take-over of the Senate, and a surge of Republican governors in deep blue states is a message that does not require tea leave reading.