Obama distances himself from Congress, analyst says


LSU Manship News Service

BATON ROUGE — President Barack Obama’s lack of interaction with Congress has become a major concern in the upcoming presidential election, says national political analyst Charlie Cook, who gave two talks at the Manship School of Mass Communication.

Cook, editor of The Cook Report in Washington, D.C., says he has a mental image of former president Lyndon B. Johnson “spinning in his grave” because a sitting president, especially one as democratically steeped as Obama, appears to have little or no relationship with Congress.

Obama has a line of communication with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, but reportedly seldom uses it, said Cook on Oct. 12.

Additionally, Cook noted that a Politico article last May noting that Obama had not had a single conversation with Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, or Tom Harkan, chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor Pension Committee, both Democrats, so far this year.

“[Obama] has played golf over 100 times,” noted Cook. “Do you know how many members of Congress he’s played golf with? Two. There seems to be a motto — no new friends. It’s like he wanted to be president, but he didn’t want to do the job.”

Cook said if he were presumptuous and put himself in Obama’s mind he would be somebody who may not consider himself a politician and doesn’t want to be around politicians. The same goes for lobbyists who, to him, might be an even “lower life form.” Cook added that Obama has outsourced congressional involvement to a liaison team, which Cook described as “one of the weakest” of any president in modern history.

Romney’s behavior in Massachusetts doesn’t suggest that he would handle Congress any better, if elected, than Obama has or will, Cook said. He predicted the country might be more likely to get necessary deals through Congress with Obama as president than Romney because the latter can’t keep a Republican House of Representatives in check.

“I don’t think a Republican president, a Republican Senate and a Republican House are capable of (enacting) revenue increases,” Cook said, implying their necessity for positive change in the country. “We would have to do some domestic spending cuts and entitlement cuts, too, and a Democratic president, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House are incapable of doing that. The only way we are going to get something done is with a form of divided government where everybody has to give up something.”

Based on current data, Cook figures the political arrangement of the executive and legislative branches may not change much after the election, meaning that Obama remains president, Democrats retain a slight edge in the Senate, and Republicans hold a majority in the House.

“We have big problems facing this country and the question is, ‘Will we have a president, either direction, with the skill set to do it?’”

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