For someone who never wants to hold anyone accountable for anything, the president sure is anxious to accept blame for himself. But some of us, most famously Greg Sargent, have been making the point for a long time that when a president boldly promises to change the way Washington works and the other side obstructs his every attempt at cooperation and bipartisanship, the voters don't blame the other side, they blame the president for failing to deliver on his promises. (Indeed, the Republicans are so bold as to openly blame him as well.)
Apparently, Obama hasn't learned that lesson:
Just 20 days after his inauguration, with Republicans trying to block his stimulus bill, President Obama refused to acknowledge that he had underestimated how hard it would be to change the way Washington works.
But as the president returned home on Sunday to face an even more rigidly divided capital, Mr. Obama went even further by blaming himself for failing to do what he had repeatedly promised — change the tone in Washington.
He said his own “obsessive” focus on implementing the right policies had led him to ignore a part of the reason voters handed him a mandate in 2008.
“I neglected some things that matter a lot to people, and rightly so: maintaining a bipartisan tone in Washington,” he told reporters in a brief question-and-answer session aboard Air Force One as he returned from a 10-day trip to Asia. “I’m going to redouble my efforts to go back to some of those first principles,” he promised.
Creating a new tone in Washington was a central theme that ran throughout Mr. Obama’s campaign for the presidency ... And just six days before the 2008 election, as he campaigned in North Carolina, Mr. Obama told a large crowd that “the change we need isn’t just about new programs and policies. It’s about a new politics — a politics that calls on our better angels instead of encouraging our worst instincts.”
For much of the last two years, Mr. Obama and his aides have pointed the finger of blame at Republicans, saying that efforts at changing the way Washington works have been systematically blocked by Republicans.
But Mr. Obama appears to have now concluded that some of the fault is shared by his own staff, which often pursued politics by traditional means as he tried to push through fiscal stability measures, health care reform and new financial regulations.
So despite the fact that he spent the first two years of his presidency doing back flips to get even one Republican to vote for his program, even as they demonized him as a socialist and a coward, he is assuming responsibility for the failure and earnestly promising to do better. And just like before, when the Republicans rebuff his every gesture, the American people will see someone who is unable to fulfill his promises and will blame this failure for all their problems.
If Obama wanted to be like Gandhi or Jesus he should have started a movement or a religion instead of becoming a politician. Politics is about persuasion and power, not transcending human nature. He's going to lose in two years if he doesn't start using the power of his office to fix this economy instead of moping around about "tone." If he doesn't fight, the only politicians the voters will see fighting for them are the Tea Partiers.