The President of the United States is the arguably the most powerful person in the world. Yet governing from the Oval Office is incredibly difficult; particularly when governing under the yolk of lame duck status. The job becomes almost impossible when you are trying to do it alone.
A lame duck president has one eye on the innumerable problems of the present and the other on the rapidly closing window of opportunity to cement his place in history. So much to do…so little time. Meanwhile the country, as well as the president’s own party, are interviewing for his successor. The president’s accomplishments are either derided or distorted…his failures highlighted on the stump. When these two forces collide the results can be highly embarrassing for the most powerful person in the world. Particularly when the president has no one but himself to blame for the result.
Such was the case with the defeat of the Pacific Trade Agreement.
It is no secret that reaching a trade agreement with the Pacific Rim countries was extremely important to this president. Its passage was to be one of the pillars of his legacy. But the deal fell through because the president’s own party turned its back on him. It turned its back because the party was more concerned with upsetting the union leaders than it was its own titular head of state. Democrats threw the president under the bus in part because in the last six plus years he had done nothing to build relationships strong enough to turn back the pressure from labor.
Look at the 48 hours proceeding the vote.
The president went to Capitol Hill to lobby his Democratic Caucus to back him on the bill. Save mandated visits for his State of the Union address he had not visited the Hill in over two years.
The president made his case in a closed door meeting.
He answered no questions.
He took no comments.
He then left the Hill and went off to play golf with his buddies. Not a congressman in the group.
Only 29 Democrats voted with him.
As one law maker put it: “You can’t just show up when you need something.”
It is no secret that this president abhors the back room politics that makes Washington run. “Schmooze” to this president is like “ooze” is to the rest of us…something to be cleaned off the bottom of your shoe. This disdain for building relationships…with friend and foe alike…has cost this president countless times in the past. It most certainly cost him on this trade deal.
Governing as a lame duck president is difficult.
Particularly when you go it alone.