By Todd Beamon
The lessons learned from last year’s many debacles are leading President Barack Obama to invoke more executive authority this year and rally public support for his agenda, The Washington Post reports.
Obama’s declaration earlier this month — “I’ve got a pen, and … I’ve got a phone” — epitomizes this new strategy, which includes bypassing Congress to implement programs,the Post reports.
“The problem for us is that the test of our success became what we passed in Congress, and even in the best case — if the fever had broken and the clouds had parted — we still would have only gotten maybe 40 percent of what we wanted,” one senior White House official told the Post.
“The political discussion, the press, the politicians want to pull the president into the role of prime minister,” added the official, whom the Post did not name. “So you have to swerve really hard to the executive powers at a time like this.”
According to the report, an internal review of Obama’s failures last year — from Obamacare to sequestration to Iran to the 16-day government shutdown that cost American taxpayers $1.4 billion — led the White House to conclude that the president “too often governed more like a prime minister than a president.
“In a parliamentary system, a prime minister is elected by lawmakers and thus beholden to them in ways a president is not,” the report noted.
Obama will kick off his new agenda in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.
“A State of the Union creates a contract with the public about what you say and what you will do,” John Podesta, who returned to the White House this month to counsel the administration on various issues, told the Post.
Podesta was former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff. Since leaving government, he founded the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning think tank with close ties to the White House. The center focuses on income inequality and economic opportunity.
“In that sense it is like a campaign, and it disciplines the priorities of the White House by creating an operation manual for the year ahead,” Podesta said. “It is certainly in that spirit we are approaching this year’s State of the Union.”
According to the Post, the Obama post-mortem stemmed from a three-page memo by senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer — concluding that Obama’s effectiveness last year was based too much on his relations with Congress, which were not positive.
“Looking at the last year from outside, a lot of it was the president in battle with a dysfunctional Congress,” Podesta told the Post. “Our task is to remember that Harry Reid is the majority leader, not the president,” and allow him to manage Democratic priorities in the Senate.
Reid is the Democratic senator from Nevada.
But the president will work with Congress on some issues, including immigration reform, the Post reports, since it is an issue that jeopardizes Republicans with Hispanics.
Regardless, though, “the pen and the phone” will be Obama’s watchwords for this year, according to the report. The president told his first Cabinet meeting of the year that he would use executive authority to implement his economic agenda.
Obama also will spend more outside Washington seeking public support for his efforts.
“Engaging the public on how to improve our communities is a very important feature of the modern presidency,” Podesta told the Post.
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