He is dining with Republicans after advisers openly mocked suggestions that he do so. He is visiting Capitol Hill after telling aides that such a gesture was beneath him and the dignity of his office. And, as an ultimate indignity, he is talking to reporters. What’s gotten into President Obama?
A better question might be what has left the president – and the answer would be: Much of his political capital.
Obama’s sudden burst of public outreach coincides with a drop in his approval ratings, noted first by Democratic pollsters advising the White House last week and now surfacing in a spate of public polls. This raises the uncomfortable question: Is this schmooze-a-thon a legitimate act of humility and leadership or a cynical public display?
I can’t answer that question because I don’t pretend to know Obama’s state of mind. I can tell you that some of his advisers are no more convinced that this strategy will work than they were a few days ago.
“This is a joke. We’re wasting the president’s time and ours,” complained a senior White House official who was promised anonymity so he could speak frankly. “I hope you all (in the media) are happy because we’re doing it for you.”