Will Obama Be Presidential or Political?

While the White House and Congress stumble to an agreement, the great unknown is Obama’s second act.

President Barack Obama stands during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, October 15, 2013.
National Journal
Ron Fournier
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Ron Fournier
Oct. 16, 2013, 7:35 a.m.

Re­pub­lic­ans will cave, the White House will win, the gov­ern­ment will re-open, and the debt ceil­ing will be raised. These things are go­ing to hap­pen, just be­fore or soon after the gov­ern­ment hits its bor­row­ing lim­it ““ and at that point, Pres­id­ent Obama faces a de­cision.

Do I lever­age my vic­tory in­to a budget deal, elim­in­at­ing both a long-term na­tion­al threat and the main source of par­tis­an bick­er­ing?

Or do I rub salt in­to the GOP’s self-in­flic­ted wounds in the dis­tant hope of win­ning the House in 2014?

Gov­ern or cam­paign? Unite or di­vide? Lead or lay in­to the GOP?

Obama’s choice may be re­vealed in the way he ap­proaches im­mig­ra­tion re­form, which he curi­ously de­clared Tues­day to be his top pri­or­ity after the fisc­al crisis.

“Once that’s done, you know, the day after, I’m go­ing to be push­ing to say, call a vote on im­mig­ra­tion re­form,” Obama told the Los Angeles af­fil­i­ate of Span­ish-lan­guage tele­vi­sion net­work Uni­vi­sion.

It’s an in­ter­est­ing choice, giv­en the na­tion­al debt is an ex­ist­en­tial na­tion­al prob­lem and the crux of the role-of-gov­ern­ment de­bate that has tied Wash­ing­ton in knots for years. Does Obama really think im­mig­ra­tion is a more ser­i­ous prob­lem? Or is it merely the best polit­ic­al is­sue for Demo­crats?

It is tempt­ing to as­sume the worse, es­pe­cially as Obama is mod­el­ing his im­mig­ra­tion mes­sage on his fisc­al-crisis talk­ing points. Blam­ing House Speak­er John Boehner for pre­vent­ing im­mig­ra­tion from com­ing up for a vote in the past, Obama said, “The only thing right now that’s hold­ing it back is, again, Speak­er Boehner not will­ing to call the bill on the floor of the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives.”

Make no mis­take, Re­pub­lic­ans are on the wrong side of the im­mig­ra­tion de­bate, as meas­ured by the 2012 elec­tion res­ults and the na­tion’s shift­ing demo­graphy. The GOP also en­gin­eered the fisc­al crisis, and Boehner is a tra­gic­ally weak speak­er.

But most voters would be dis­ap­poin­ted if they learn that their pres­id­ent has aban­doned gov­ernance and the hard work of deal­ing with a frac­tured GOP to en­gage in an all-or-noth­ing bid for the House. While the White House and Con­gress stumble to an agree­ment, the great un­known is Obama’s second act. Will he be more pres­id­en­tial than polit­ic­al? Or will raw polit­ics define his pres­id­ency?

What We're Following See More »
NEXT THURSDAY
Trump Transition Team Meeting with Silicon Valley VIPs
4 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump's "transition team will meet next week with representatives of the tech industry, multiple sources confirmed, even as their candidate largely has been largely shunned by Silicon Valley. The meeting, scheduled for next Thursday at the offices of law and lobbying firm BakerHostetler, will include trade groups like the Information Technology Industry Council and the Internet Association that represent major Silicon Valley companies."

Source:
WHAT WILL PASS?
McConnell Doubts Criminal Justice Reform Can Pass This Year
10 minutes ago
THE LATEST
ALSO FIRED UNATTRACTIVE WAITRESSES
Trump Did Business with Cuba
51 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Today in bad news for Donald Trump:

  • Newsweek found that a company he controlled did business with Cuba under Fidel Castro "despite strict American trade bans that made such undertakings illegal, according to interviews with former Trump executives, internal company records and court filings." In 1998, he spent at least $68,000 there, which was funneled through a consluting company "to make it appear legal."
  • The Los Angeles Times reports that at a golf club he owns in California, Trump ordered that unattractive female staff be fired and replaced with prettier women.
POST-DEBATE SURVEYS
Clinton Holds Lead in Five Battlegrounds
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

In some of the first state-by-state surveys since Monday night's debate, Hillary Clinton has the edge in five battlegrounds, according to polls by Public Policy Polling. In four-way matchups, Clinton leads Donald Trump 46%-40% in Colorado, 45%-43% in Florida, 44%-42% in North Carolina, 45%-39% in Pennsylvania, and 46%-40% in Virginia. Gary Johnson doesn't top 7% in any state. Voters in all five states thought that Clinton decisively won the debate.

Source:
TIME TO SPLIT
House Passes CR, Sends Bill to President’s Desk
13 hours ago
THE LATEST
×