By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
Elected in a euphoric wave of hope and change for the future, President Obama's recent stumblings over the Gulf oil disaster, efforts to influence Democratic races and hiccups in stopping domestic terrorism have even his friends thinking he's no different than any other president. [See photos of the disaster in the Gulf.]
This week there have been several liberals and progressives making the charge that Obama, despite all the election hype and hope, is just another politician. Mike Barnicle, a regular on the MSNBC morning show Morning Joe, vented that frustration yesterday. Talking Thursday about the good Americans felt electing what they thought was a unique and intelligent young president in 2008, he said: "It was as if we gave ourselves a big gift box with a huge bow on it and now with everything that he inherited, the economy, two wars, speaking like a hugely partisan guy about the deficits yesterday about the Republicans…we open the bow, we take the top off the box and it's the same old same old."
That's not to say that Obama can't come back, like former President Clinton did several times. Spokesman Robert Gibbs said that if he had a tombstone for every time the administration had been declared dead, "we could open a cemetery." And other Democrats say that Obama is getting a bad rap in the media. But pollsters suggest that Obama's long stretch at 50 percent public approval or less means that the thrill is gone.
We've asked some Whispers regulars if they think Obama is the same old same old and here are the five ways they see the president as little different than previous administrations.
[See a slide show of the 5 reasons Obama is just like Bush and Clinton.]
1. Obama, while pledging to change the rules in Washington, is playing many of the same old games. Most notably has been the effort by his administration to buy off political challengers to the president's favored candidates with promises of jobs. First it was the failed bid to get Rep. Joe Sestak not to challenge Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who lost to Sestak in a rare primary failure. Then it was revealed that the administration tried it again with former Colorado state house speaker Andrew Romanoff who is challenging Sen. Michael Bennet in the Democratic primary.
2. Despite promises of being a post-partisan president, he has tussled with Republicans and this week raised the rhetoric higher on healthcare and the economy, blaming them for trying to undermine his agenda despite having majorities in both the House and Senate. Some say it's shades of former President Bush who also promised bipartisanship but rarely made it work.
3. Amid promises of transparency, Obama is running secret wars a la Nixon and Bush. Today's Washington Post, for example, reveals that the administration, which arrived with plans to cut back on the wars, is expanding "a largely secret U.S. war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups" in Yemen, Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East.
4. Openness goes only so far. Like virtually every modern president shoved into a controversy, some accuse Obama of considering using executive privilege to protect the writings of his Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.
5. While it has been unfolding on TV for six weeks, the president has appeared out of touch with the Gulf oil spill and is only now trying to insert himself into the crisis with his third trip to the area and televised statements about how "furious" he is with BP. Even liberal Washington Post columnist David Broder is asking if Obama is channeling former President Carter, whose administration was held hostage by the 444-day Iran hostage crisis. Wrote Broder this week, "Nothing is going to help Obama unless and until the engineers come up with a method for shutting down this gusher of pollution. He clearly couldn't prevent it, and he was slow in signaling its severity. But he owns it now, and until it is over, the man who aspired to be the next John Kennedy or maybe Franklin Roosevelt will have to hope he doesn't end up as Jimmy Carter."