The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward charged Thursday night that President Barack Obama is failing to use the full power of the presidency “for things he even believes in very dearly.”
Speaking to the Village Shalom “Ages of Excellence Celebration” in Overland Park, Woodward said the president is constrained by his inability to connect with the leading members of Congress, including some from his own party.
“He won’t do the things to close the gap with people,” Woodward said.
Woodward, who has written two books about the Obama presidency as well as many other bestsellers, said the president has an arrogant streak as well as a healthy dose of humility stemming from his improbable run for the White House in 2008.
His lack of good relationships with key players, such as House Speaker John Boehner, is causing the president all sorts of problems.
Woodward quoted House Budget chair Paul Ryan as saying the president “just doesn’t like us” in a reference to congressional Republicans.
“That is absolutely true,” Woodward said. “Obama has isolated himself.”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist said a top congressional Democrat who chairs one of Capitol Hill’s most powerful committees once complained to him that the president had only called him twice in five years.
In a meeting once on the White House patio during tense 2011 budget negotiations with Boehner, the speaker drank a glass of Merlot and smoked cigarettes. The president, meantime, drank ice tea and chewed Nicorette.
“What’s the message?” Woodward asked referring to the president. “It’s a message of distance and moral superiority.”
Republicans are hardly blameless in the ongoing partisan showdown in Washington, he said. Boehner, he said, once told Obama that he would use the threat of government default to extract concessions that the speaker acknowledged he would not normally be able to get.
“That’s blackmail,” Woodward said.
Obama remains wonderfully articulate, but also unable to translate that verbal wizardry to new laws for the nation.
“Obama,” he said, “has not found a way to work his will.”