Not that the president has the customary prerogatives granted to chief executives, such as the benefit of the doubt among members of his own party on important appointments. Only a day before Lawrence H. Summers withdrew from consideration as chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, three members of the Senate Banking Committee, including a reliable ally, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, indicated they would not back the president’s choice.
The president has little reason for hope for the way forward.
New tax, spending and debt-ceiling confrontations are just around a dangerous corner. The president has to be admired for his patience, commitment and resilience as he bounces from one economic crisis to another, but there is little hope he will get his way, or even get a reprieve from House Republicans, who are not inclined or motivated to compromise with him.
Instead, these House Republicans took heart from last week’s Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll underlining the deep skepticism Americans still feel about the health care law that has become known as Obamacare. (Ronald Reagan once marveled that the opponents who described his economic policies as Reaganomics abandoned the name once it seemed his policies were working. Obama no doubt harbors the same hope.)
That opinion poll showed that less than a third of Americans thought the measure was a good idea, as opposed to 44 percent who condemned it. This was accompanied by poll findings showing that two-thirds of those polled acknowledged they didn’t understand the law very well or only partially — not a good sign for the president nor testimony to his marketing acumen.
The House Republicans no doubt will vote to repeal Obamacare a few dozen more times, a meaningless gesture except that it reinforces their determination to frustrate the president. Until the Summers withdrawal, the president was pinning his hopes on gaining GOP support for his Fed choice in the Senate (which, unlike the House, has confirmation powers). The president cannot count on Republican support for anything in the House.
The result is a season of frustration for Obama and few prospects for improvements in the political atmosphere for the remainder of the year. Then comes winter. All signs point to a cold one.
North Shore native and Pulitzer Prize winner David M. Shribman is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.