ShareThis Page

Politics everything to Obama

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.


Two minutes after the start of an event he was scheduled to headline, President Barack Obama stepped into his limo for the 13-minute ride to the Four Seasons Hotel here.

Inside the five-star hotel, 150 Wall Street CEOs waited.

The crowd expected the president to deliver a speech filled with reassurances about the problems associated with ObamaCare. Instead, he offered biting partisan rhetoric that tried to blame Republicans for the failures of his signature health-care bill.

In politics there is always an exit door. But policy is a much different room: Exits are hard to find because you can't escape law, especially a law on which you have based your entire legacy.

Obama's staff also appears in need of a fire escape.

That same day was the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, which the president chose not to honor by attending a ceremony marking it. White House senior aide Dan Pfeiffer gave a prickly response to National Journal columnist Ron Fournier's Twitter question about what on the president's schedule was more important than the Gettysburg anniversary.

“Oh, I don't know, there's this whole website thing that someone suggested might destroy the Dem Party,” Pfeiffer tweeted from his official White House account.

Pfeiffer unwittingly revealed what everything is about with this administration: salvaging Obama's political legacy and his relationship to Democrats.

In short, politics.

Here the president stood in the nation's capital, the center of the country's power and wealth, speaking to the very segment of society that has reaped the most from his administration — and he tried to escape responsibility for the crumbling of his presidency's centerpiece policy.

Sixty-five miles away on a battlefield, the sitting president was absent when other Americans honored one of his predecessors, a man who said that the blood spilled there was not in vain but part of a “new birth of freedom.”

The president apparently was absent because he is immobilized by a divisional political calculus that he created to win two elections.

Eventually, karma catches up with you, even if you are the president of the United States.

Obama cannot move (nor can his advisers successfully advise) because, so far, he has never convincingly projected himself as a president for everyone, because he is at odds with half of the country's values and traditions.

As a president, his governing style always has required a bad guy, someone who is “against” him.

It is a way of operating that his staff has adopted. That is why, when senior staffers such as Pfeiffer are questioned by reporters, their default answers aren't thoughtful or mindful of the office they represent.

Instead, the answers are laced with bitterness toward the questioners and with disdain for the people who might care about an inconvenient issue.

Any Main Street mom would pull out the soap to give those staffers' mouths a good scrubbing.

How unfortunate for American history that President Obama allowed the politics of ObamaCare to keep him from attending the short ceremony honoring President Lincoln. Certainly, a 90-minute visit to the Pennsylvania battlefield would not have taken away his ability to “fix” a website and a political party — as if that was really what he was doing last Tuesday.

But, then, everything President Obama does is political. In fact, he is trapped by his politics.

Telling Americans that you cannot honor Lincoln's words 150 years later because you have to fix a website that you botched and a Democratic Party that you unraveled — but you can honor the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's “I Have a Dream” speech — is disturbing.

First, without the former, you would not have had the latter. And, second, what you are telling Americans with such a decision is that politics is everything to your presidency.

Class warfare was Barack Obama's signature achievement as a campaigner; pitting one part of the country against the other is who he is. That's politics, and it is something he could always exit if he so chose.

But once he infused that into his policies — and his policies to date have been a disaster — he found there are no exit doors in sight.

Salena Zito covers politics for Trib Total Media (412-320-7879 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.