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July 04, 2014

Peggy Noonan: Our Deeply Strange President Has Given Up and Checked Out

He's declared his independence from day-to-day job responsibilities.

I don't know if we sufficiently understand how weird and strange, how historically unparalleled, this presidency has become....

[I]'m not sure people are noticing the sheer strangeness of how the president is responding to the lack of success around him....

In a truly stunning piece in early June, Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown and Jennifer Epstein interviewed many around the president and reported a general feeling that events have left him—well, changed. He is "taking fuller advantage of the perquisites of office," such as hosting "star-studded dinners that sometimes go on well past midnight." He travels, leaving the White House more in the first half of 2014 than any other time of his presidency except his re-election year. He enjoys talking to athletes and celebrities, not grubby politicians, even members of his own party. He is above it all. On his state trip to Italy in the spring, he asked to spend time with "interesting Italians." They were wealthy, famous. The dinner went for four hours. The next morning his staff were briefing him for a "60 Minutes" interview about Ukraine and health care. "One aide paraphrased Obama's response: 'Just last night I was talking about life and art, big interesting things, and now we're back to the minuscule things on politics.'''

Minuscule? Politics is his job.

...

It is weird to have a president who has given up. So many young journalists diligently covering this White House, especially those for whom it is their first, think what they're seeing is normal.

It is not. It is unprecedented and deeply strange. And, because the world is watching and calculating, unbelievably dangerous.

There's a lot more to the piece.

Incidentally, that Politico piece about Obama's love of the Finer Things (and Interesting Italians) was the subject of a terrific Matthew Continetti piece, "Dialing It In."

He has decided to relax. He has decided to fill his remaining days getting the most out of his presidential experience. The free travel and lodgings and security escort, the access to good tee times, the ability to get a reservation wherever and whenever he wants, the chance to meet VIPs who will flatter and ingratiate themselves to him—he is enjoying these perks and privileges to the utmost. His motto is not YOLO. It is YOPO: You’re only president once. Why not savor it?

Obama is golfing more than at any point in his term. In March, as Vladimir Putin launched the newest phase of his quest to recreate the Russian Empire, some in the White House had the temerity to suggest that it might not be a good idea to fly to Key Largo for a long weekend of golf and relaxation. Obama disagreed. "Obama sticks to Florida vacation schedule," read one headline. This was one commitment on which the president would not renege. "I needed this," he told guests, including his new friend Alonzo Mourning, over dinner at the Ocean Reef Club. "I needed the golf. I needed to laugh. I need to spend time with friends." I am sure the Ukrainians understand.

I think it was Continetti who first made this "checked out" observation, which has since become something close to conventional wisdom (at least among commentators who aren't in the bag for Obama).

Thanks to @comradearthur.


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posted by Ace at 02:10 PM

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