No Victors/No Vanquished Begins at Home

August 11th, 2014

A big part of being an effective leader is being able to deliver a believable message.  If everyone knows a president’s words have no real meaning then he can stand in the Rose Garden all day long and give a speech that rivals the famous Jimmy Stewart scene in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington but he’ll be easily dismissed.

One must wonder then what Iraqi leaders are making of President Obama’s calls to unite together and create a coalition where there are “no victors/no vanquished.”

Who can forget the beginning of Obama’s first term in office when his White House Press Secretary constantly reminded the press and public that “elections have consequences.”  In other words, Democrats then were the victors.  Republicans were the vanquished.  It was on this basic premise that the Democrat controlled Congress passed and Obama signed the Affordable Care Act.

Friends of mine on Capitol Hill share a number of stories of experiences with Obama and his staff where the “we’re the victors—you’re the vanquished” message rang loud and clear. It was this attitude that poisoned the beginning of the relationship between Obama and Republicans in Congress.

Obama could go a long way towards changing this dynamic himself if he extended an olive branch to Republican leaders and implored all going forward to live by the example he asked the Iraqis to follow over the weekend.

He could do that, but clearly he won’t.

No sooner had he given the big high minded speech than he once again took a gratuitous swipe at Republicans in an interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.

In that interview, he offered his opinion that “ideological extremism and maximalist position is much more prominent right now in the Republican Party than the Democrats.  Democrats have problems, but overall if you look at the Democrat consensus, it’s a pretty commonsense, mainstream consensus.  It’s not a lot of wacky ideological nonsense, the way it is generally fact-based and reason-based.  We’re not denying science, we’re not denying climate change, we’re not pretending that somehow having a whole bunch of uninsured people is the American way.  We’re doing things that are pretty sensible.”

An interesting book could be written analyzing that paragraph although it’s really pretty simple. A president who is certainly a proponent of leftwing political philosophy thinks that leftwing political philosophy is quite sensible.  The folly in his thinking is that he has a huge blind spot to the degree of his own personal bias.  Would he be shocked to learn that there are political leaders from the Republican Party who he regards as rightwing who could certainly offer the same statement from their own political perspective with equal sincerity?

The difference between the Republican leadership and Obama is that Obama constantly makes such statements.  He frequently takes gratuitous shots at Republicans and then whines when they don’t do what he wants.

This should offer little comfort to the world where Iraq is concerned especially if Iraqi leaders choose to heed Obama’s actions and example more than his words.