I will make no attempt to defend or justify certain elements of the tactics of the Republicans in the House and Senate in the run-up to the current government shutdown “crisis”, particularly the futile attempt to defund Obamacare, although I agree with most aspects of the underlying policy substance in their recent position–on Obamacare, on the spending, on the debt ceiling. But the posture of the President in this episode represents an unacceptable abdication of the responsibility of his office to lead, and to lead is to take charge of the negotiation of a resolution. This guy clearly has no grasp of the concept of leadership as it is vested in the executive branch under our constitutional system, nor does he have the capacity for it.
Much has been made of the reality that the Republicans cannot govern with control of only one-half of one of the three branches, and certainly they should have learned very painfully from the Gingrich days that a House Speaker cannot conduct business as a prime minister. But the position of this President is this notion that, as he said in an interview, “this is not a problem of Congress per se; this is a problem of a particular faction in the Republican Party”, as though this situation is foreign to our system or that the dynamics of pluralist governance are beneath him. Deal with it. Can you imagine Lyndon Johnson copping out with such a statement? He would have the leadership of both parties in both houses of Congress camped out in his office until a deal was struck. And the sad commentary here is that no one in Obama’s camp in or outside government has the courage to call him out on this abdication. The Republicans may take the political hit in the short run, but the legacy here and abroad is of a shrinking President.