From the Left



Obama and the promised land: Picking up the pieces

Jamie Stiehm on

WASHINGTON -- Tall and strikingly handsome, he's the coolest guy in the Situation Room, on the dance floor and on the planet. His blockbuster memoir is out, "A Promised Land."

His name is Barack Obama. My blue world loves him. There's no question I'd fall under the beam if I met the man. But you tell me, are we living in a promised land?

Obama is a man of reason in unreasonable times.

The pandemic's fourth season, winter, is on the way. We are hurting, a nation living in a divided house. The White House door was left unlocked for Donald Trump to steal in, four years ago.

There were things President Obama didn't do -- things that opened the door to where we are now, one of history's harshest "crisis" chapters ever. Only the Civil War and the Great Depression were worse.

First, Obama did not stand up to Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate majority leader, on two counts of presidential power. He failed to resist McConnell's blatant refusal to fill a Supreme Court seat in 2016, when conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in February.


Obama let the year go by with that seat vacant when he had a strong nominee, Judge Merrick Garland.

When you're president, you don't let the Senate majority leader get away with such bluff and stuff. You use your greater power to coerce cooperation. You say what would happen to Kentucky. You channel Lyndon B. Johnson's chops. But Obama's style is cool and detached, and he backed off, just as McConnell bet he would.

Politics ain't beanbag, as they say.

As a result of Obama's silent surrender on the court, McConnell became emboldened. When the president pressed him and other congressional leaders to issue a bipartisan warning to the American people about Russian hacking before the 2016 election, McConnell turned him down flat. Even though the CIA made the finding. Sly as a fox, McConnell felt there was no price to pay in crossing Obama.


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