EDITORIAL: The perils of duckhood

The president insists that he’s relevant, not lame

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Presidents never call a news conference unless they have something to say, or, in certain circumstances have to say something, like it or not. President Obama called an unexpected news conference Tuesday, with lots of things he had rather not talk about. It was an occasion when he had to say something, like it or not.

It was an unusual day for the press, too. White House reporters are accustomed to serving up softballs to this president, but sometimes even softball pitchers can’t resist putting a little heat on it. He clearly wanted to see something soft on a day when everything looked like a high, hard one right across the letters: Syrian genocide, intelligence glitches in the days and weeks leading up to the Boston massacre, guns, the growing fear of Obamacare, even his unredeemed promise to close the terrorist prison at Guantanamo. His most memorable line was in answer to a question about his inability to lead from the front, his stumble at the beginning of the second term with his legacy at stake.

“Maybe I should just pack up and go home,” he said, in a voice touched more by sadness than the intended whimsy. “Goll-ee.”

He sounded more like a president determined to stay relevant than a man fired with passion. His remarks about Guantanamo, that he hasn’t given up closing the prison, were in answer to a question, not a determined assertion that he wanted everyone to remember. “I’m going to go back at this,” he said. “I’ve asked my team to review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively, and I’m going to re-engage with Congress to try to make the case that [Guantanamo] is not something that’s in the best interests of the American people.”

He may re-engage with Congress, but it’s not likely to accomplish what he wants. He’s been there before, singing the same song, same verse, same tune. He signed the 2011 defense bill that restricts his ability to transfer the remaining 166 prisoners to the American mainland or to foreign countries. Nothing has changed the reality set out shortly afterward by Robert M. Gates, then the defense secretary: “The prospects for closing Guantanamo, as best I can tell, are very, very low, given the very broad opposition to doing that here in Congress.” That’s “very” three times in one sentence.

The president arrived on the defensive about his signature “achievement,” the health-care “reform” that even the Democrats who designed it and applauded its passage now concede is “a train wreck” speeding down the tracks. The president could only repeat the assurances that Obamacare isn’t as bad as everybody thinks it is. “For the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing has already happened,” he said. “And their only impact is that their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before. Full stop. That’s it. They don’t have to worry about anything else.”

The president is concerned that his second term, when he expected to be liberated to do what he couldn’t do in his first, is about to render him a lame duck. But any president before him would tell him that if he has to tell everyone that he is, too, still relevant, and that he’s not a lame duck, he’s probably on the way to being a very lame duck.

The Washington Times

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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