Brian Birdnow

Writing in the Washington Post last week, E.J. Dionne admiringly noted that President Obama has successfully “changed the narrative” in national politics in highlighting Republican inactivity and obstructionism. Dionne notes, however, that Obama is feeling frustrated these days because the Republicans obstruct his initiatives, yet he takes the blame. (Mainstream media organs still adore this man no matter how many times he fumbles the ball, but no matter!) Dionne cautions that Obama should face the reality that the GOP will not make things easy for him and that constant complaints about congressional inactivity may soon become an excuse for his own inability to execute any of his agenda.

Mr. Dionne praises the president for his astute political analysis, particularly the penetratingly shrewd realization that the Republicans will probably not assist too much in their own destruction. He then declares, “…he (Obama) really is dealing with a novel situation…the strong Presidents with whom he is often compared, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, did not face these obstacles.” It is true that LBJ faced minimal congressional opposition between 1963-67 due to massive Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. He forgets, however, that President Reagan never had a majority in the House of Representatives, and had only a slim Senate majority from 1981-87. Reagan pushed much of his agenda through a hostile Congress, usually without crying a river over his plight.

Dionne concludes his piece with a friendly warning that Obama had better get back to leading from the front, not from behind, and start to actively work to advance his agenda. He ticks off a number of items that Obama should immediately address: The civil war in Syria, the greatness of the Affordable Care Act and how the Administration plans to make this unworkable monstrosity actually work, and, of course, a plan to reignite the stagnant economy, which the public has anticipated since January of 2009. Dionne warns rather ominously, “Obama’s calling card was hope. There is more to be hopeful about right now than his own public weariness would suggest.” In short, E.J. Dionne is urging the President to drop his lethargy and get serious about advancing his popular political agenda.

Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.