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No-drama Obama plays part in American tragedy

Jamie Stiehm on

WASHINGTON -- So much drama: death and taxes, a Supreme Court vacancy and the beastly election looming over us all. Color in conservative religion to confuse things. All the public players are onstage except for one offstage, an actor who did not play his part as president well in 2016.

His name is Barack Obama. He lives within the city limits. You'll be glad to know he's finished his second brilliant memoir, "A Promised Land." Ironic title, considering the sad shape we're in with the pandemic, economy and Supreme Court. Not to mention revelations about President Donald Trump's taxes leaving even the battle-hardened among us gobsmacked. $750?

Oh, it grieves my liberal heart to say the fixes we're in could have been prevented by "No-Drama Obama." An ironic nickname. Once sunny, the American play turned to Greek tragedy, a classic tale of one character's hubris -- pride that made the gods angry.

For all his talents, Democratic Obama failed to lock in a worthy successor, a second President Clinton.

We all know it: Obama did not fight for his own Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. He let him twist in the wind for months in 2016. As president, it's up to him to confront Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for obstructing the Constitution. McConnell, in a shrewd power play, dared Obama to stand up for Garland's right to a hearing and a vote.

But our man of reason, Obama, never did engage. A mild-mannered surrender to McConnell foreshadowed what was to come. He shrugged. Hillary Clinton was going to win the race for president anyway.

 

Let's talk about that. Clinton didn't win anyway, but, in a stunner, lost to Trump. He won two-thirds of the white male vote. (Thanks, guys.) She could have run a better campaign, but a kickoff in Wisconsin's Green Bay got canceled because of a Florida mass shooting.

The truth is Clinton lost, in part, because Obama did not campaign that hard for her. In three battleground states that Trump narrowly won -- Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- Black turnout was low in the big cities of Detroit, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. Obama could have energized Black voters in those cities and shored up Black support in general. I wonder why he didn't try.

It's simple: Obama plays politics as a solo artist, not as a team sport. He's the star at center stage, speaking inspired lines. He's slow to lend his luster out to other Democrats, not even to prevent a House tea party takeover. (An aside: He doesn't like to listen to other people's speeches.)

But Hillary was going to win anyway: a Greek chorus. Obama's White House said so. Pollster Nate Silver suggested it was done and dusted. The historic succession was a given.

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