Power Play

President Crisis and the Wishful Thinking Brigade

The hallmark of the Obama era is government of, for and by crisis. Elected amid (or possibly because of) a financial crisis, the Panic of 2008, President Obama has spent his time in office lurching from disaster to disaster.

Obama’s reflexes, praised instinctive timing and audacious as a candidate, turn out to be poorly suited to high office. Obama has been mostly reactive and mostly captive to events. Veering here and there is part of being president. The world is big and dangerous and governance is hard. But watching Obama govern is like watching a distracted man flipping through television channels and all of it bad.

“If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”(flip) Never mind. (flip) We must bomb Syria now! (flip) Er, scratch that. (flip) Al Qaeda is on the run. (flip) It depends on what you mean by “core al Qaeda.” (flip)

Some of the crises have been self-inflected, and sometimes even intentional. Obama’s signature health law, for example, was born of a crisis in Congress. As support for the entitlement long sought by liberals was fracturing, even with Democrats in complete control of Washington, the president jammed the throttle down. The crisis of confidence demanded that a poorly constructed law be passed. Now! Now! Don’t think. Don’t read. Just vote.

That decision, of course, has led to other crises. The one playing out now is the risible implementation of the law. Democrats are all dripping with glib swipes about how Republicans have been waging a very messy civil war amid the partial government shutdown. But the Democrats are pushing their confident chuffles through gritted teeth. They know that the launch has been damaging, and if unrepaired, possibly fatal to the law. However the current budget debacle ends, the ObamaCare debacle has just begun.

The president compared the launch to an iPhone. More like Project Orca.

In an era of divided government precipitated by Obama’s crisis-based strategy for enacting a sweeping new health entitlement, Obama has remained crisis dependent to keep the government operating. In the 34th consecutive month of fiscal cliff diving, Obama is a self-described hostage. He vows he won’t negotiate, but then he does. He vows there will be no concessions on ObamaCare, and then lays the groundwork for accepting changes. He can’t help it, Obama says to his base, it’s a… well, you know.

The missives from the White House on this crisis, like most of the ones before, read like regrets. It would have been better if not for ________.

Republicans, meanwhile, can hardly even summon the will to govern by crisis. They are so focused on affixing blame for what they all expect to be a total rout that they seldom do anything so far sighted that it could even be called opportunistic. While the supporters of former Sen. Jim DeMint’s assault on Republican congressional leadership assure supporters that the rout would have been worse if they had not drawn first blood, the defenders of the political establishment all say that they all had a secret plan to scupper ObamaCare, if only Sen. Cruz hadn’t started talking.

The truth is that both alternate versions of history rely on wishful thinking. For the establishment, the canard hangs on the idea that the liberal press would have suddenly become obsessed with how bad Obama’s law was working out. No way. For the DeMintists, the presupposition is that if the leadership had only gone along that there might have been a popular uprising in favor of “defunding” the president’s law.

Wishful thinking on both sides of the Republican divide has left the GOP in the unhappy position of reacting to the man who is perhaps America’s most reactive president.

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News.  His Power Play column appears Tuesdays and Thursdays at FoxNews.com. Catch Chris live online weekdays at 11:30 am ET.  Read his “Fox News First” newsletter published each weekday morning. Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.