This afternoon, at his press conference the President refused to “count the tea leaves” regarding yesterday’s electoral drubbing as he conducted a press conference that 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 number, referencing it twice.
The President 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 was there a course change due? In each case the answer centered on the refusal to count tea leaves and vague, long winded answers that were not answers, became the consistent order of the day.
Unlike Bill Clinton, who accepted responsibility for his first mid-term drubbing Mr. Obama fell back on his narcissistic need not to be the focus of blame. I’m actually surprised he didn’t blame Bush. By implication he blamed the two thirds of registered voters who failed to turn out, that comment was also likely a message to the vaunted Democratic turn-out machine. “To the one third of voters who turned out, I hear you”, said the President. “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 this press conference. It was also 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 and that he wanted to see what the Republican Congressional agenda would be and there might be areas of “overlap.” One might respectfully suggest to the President that the three hundred plus bills sitting on Leader Reid’s desk, passed by the House, might be a reasonable reflection of the agenda. Or, perhaps, the issues addressed in the election races might provide a hint or two. The President is unwilling or unable to accept the idea that all of this high flying rhetoric with no substance has run its course; that the lies are less forgivable now than they were before.
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 leaves. Persistent rejection by his own party, who offered full throated support until it came election time is a deep cut despite the expression of understanding by the President.
On Immigration reform he did not back off his promise to unilaterally execute immigration reforms despite a statement by Senator McConnell in advance of the Presidents appearance that such action would “poison the well.” It’s that rhetoric again, the noise speaks to, at least, the chance for cooperation but the singular issue that would poison that cooperation is still the President’s intention. By the way, it’s John Boehner’s fault.
After many iterations of the “I’ll reach out, overlap, let’s see the agenda”, ABC’s Jonathan Karl phrased the question in a different manner telling the President that Senator McConnell’s office told him that the President had only met with the Minority Leader, one on one, once or twice over the course of his term in office and was that a mistake? No answer! Lots of rhetorical flourish, repetition of the ”reach out” talking points, but no actual answer to the question; of for that matter to any of the questions as asked.
Reasonable people might opine that, on this day, the President actually did not have any answers.