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New York Times Columnist Thomas Edsall Disappointed With Obama

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HH: If you read one piece by a man of the left about yesterday, go read Thomas Edsall in the New York Times’ Making The President Small. Of course, he gets it. He’s been getting it for decades. Thomas Edsall, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show, it’s great to talk to you.

TE: It’s good to be with you, Hugh.

HH: Now at the end of your piece when you quote David Leege from Notre Dame, he seemed to make the President a victim when in fact, I think the President’s achieved in his first two years pretty much everything he set out to do. All we’re watching is the unfolding reaction to it, Thomas Edsall.

TE: Well, I tend to agree that a victim portrayal is not correct, that Obama is, has made his own bed. And he’s paying the price for it at this moment.

HH: Well, he did, he got Obamacare, he got the financial reform bill, he got the stimulus, he got two Supreme Court justices, he got reelected, and the country basically shuddered yesterday. They don’t like it, do they, Tom?

TE: Well, I think they shuddered at his leadership, which has been pretty weak in the face of a series of crises, and he has not done on the economic front what clearly the American people want, which is more jobs, better income and growth.

HH: I don’t know if that’s deep enough. Let me push on this one.

TE: Go ahead.

HH: Tom Cotton won by 18 points in Arkansas, a state that has not had two Republican senators since Reconstruction, 18 points against a legacy candidate who was extraordinarily well-funded, who was hidden away from tough votes by Harry Reid. What does that tell you? That’s not just Arkansas turning red. That’s a revolution.

TE: Well, I mean, it’s a longer issue than we have to talk about it, but I think there are some really serious problems on the Democratic side. And the party has been depending on issues like the war on women and depending on demographics. And it may be running out of gas at this point.

HH: That’s why I liked your piece. You warned them that they can’t rely on demographic inevitability, which they’ve been doing for a long time. What about the President’s threat today? It had to be considered a threat in his press conference a couple of hours ago. To use unilateral action to cease the prosecution of people in the country illegally, in other words, amnesty by default?

TE: Well, he’s going to risk a strong Congressional reaction to that if he does it. But to be honest, politically, I don’t know if that’s that dumb a move. It’ll create some howls of anger, and it will increase turnout, probably, among people who are opposed to what he’s doing, but it will also increase support for the Democratic party among Hispanics. It’s one of those political gambles that he may have nothing to lose by it. Listen, he’s not going to run again.

HH: Yeah, but Hillary is his heir apparent, and she went down and campaigned in Arkansas. She went with Bill to Kentucky on behalf of Alison Grimes. She and Bill, do you think the President cares at all how they fare in this? Or is it all just about his legacy at this point?

TE: Well, I’m not sure that he is madly in love with Hillary. She ran against him, and it got a little nasty back there in 2008. And she has stiff-armed him a few times recently keeping her distance. So I’m not sure that he is thinking so much of passing his legacy onto her. Well, to be honest, I’m not sure how much commitment Obama has to his own party.

HH: Oh, I agree with this. I think people have underestimated his detachment from the Democratic machine for a long time. He’s his own guy. He’s a party of one.

TE: I know. There’s a lot that he should have done as president for his own party, and he has basically seen his party take first a severe hit in 2010, and now an equally severe hit, if not more substantial, in 2014. And he has left the party in, he’s leaving the party, I think, in bad shape for 2016.

HH: That’s a shambles right now, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz isn’t the person to fix it. Let me close this way, Thomas Edsall. You’ve watched a lot of administrations come and go, Republican and Democrat, and you know talented staff and not so talented staff. If you had to grade the people around President Obama right now against the challenges that they are facing, George W. Bush fired Rumsfeld in 2006, or accepted his resignation. Should the President be cleaning house in the White House because of the quality of his staff right now?

TE: I don’t know if that’s the solution. You ask what I would grade the staff. I would give them, say, a C- or a D+. I think, but I’m not sure that firing people is going to save him. That’s all. It probably should happen, but I think the problem is really that somehow, Obama doesn’t seem to be connecting as the leader of his party, and as president of the United States.

HH: I agree with that. He’s connecting with…

TE: Those are the two things he really has the obligation to do. So firing a lot of people is, doesn’t resolve the issue.

HH: He’s not alone in this fiasco. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi share, Pelosi less so, because she’s been out of power, but Harry Reid, should they go as part of an attempt to salvage the wreckage of the Democratic Party?

TE: Well, yeah, that’s, I don’t want to call shots saying that Pelosi or Reid should resign. They’ve had their ups and downs. Again, I think the problem lies in the head of the fish. And the head of the fish is Obama, and he is not exhibiting the strengths that you would want to see if you were a Democrat as the leader of your party.

HH: Are you disappointed, Tom Edsall? We’ve got a minute left. Are you disappointed by him?

TE: Obama?

HH: Yes.

TE: Yeah, I was never, I wasn’t one of these guys who was wild for him back in 2008, though I thought he was interesting, and I supported him. But I now feel I am disappointed, yes.

HH: Thomas Edsall, as always, good to talk with you. The story, Making The President Small, the opinion piece in the New York Times, must reading for anyone who wants to know what happened yesterday. It’s in the New York Times. I’ll tweet out the link. Thank you, Thomas.

End of interview.

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