Barack Obama has all but conceded his lame-duck status. His State of the Union address was bereft of big ideas. And his declaration that he will use his “pen and a phone” to issue a raft of executive orders is an admission of political impotence — a presidency reduced to small-ball initiatives like creating “myRA” savings accounts and raising the minimum wage for federal contractors.
The one exception — his one last shot at a major legislative achievement — was comprehensive immigration reform. But that isn’t happening either.
And the reason can be summed up in one word: Obamacare.
“Comprehensive” is Washington-speak for “big.” And in the wake of the Obamacare debacle, no one is interested in anything big from Barack Obama.
“I try to focus not on the fumbles but on the next plan,” Obama said this weekend. But when you fumble as spectacularly as the president did with Obamacare, people don’t trust your next plan.
It’s not just that Americans don’t trust the president’s competence. Increasingly, they don’t trust him — period. A majority believe the president passed Obamacare on the basis of a lie. And when you lie to people, they stop listening to you. Obama’s State of the Union address garnered the lowest ratings of any president in 14 years — with 19 million fewer viewers than his first address in 2009. Obama can’t rally the country around big ideas when millions of Americans are tuning him out.
And Obama certainly can’t rally Congress around big ideas when he is simultaneously declaring his intention to circumvent it. Every time Obama mentions using his “pen and a phone,” he reminds Republicans that he can undo any immigration deal he reaches with them with a stroke of his pen — gutting border-enforcement provisions while pocketing legalization.