An older couple called me yesterday after hearing the President’s speech on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and said “Obama’s back.” This couple doesn’t have any gay relatives, they are not very liberal, and they are main line Democrats who might even dip their toe into Republican waters if there is a good candidate. Like many Americans they want a strong president and they want a president who has a moral message.
Since the November midterms when president said more than once that the Democrats took a "shellacking," President Obama has come into his own.
Today, he's no longer the new president who has been led around by the elders in his Party, he has taken on the mantel of a leader who knows how to play on the political battlefield. He racked up legislative wins that no one would have predicted on election night this year. -- The president also garnered support from his base, at the same time working out deals with the Republican opposition.
Winning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (and getting Marine Corps General Amos to agree to carry out the law) getting unemployment insurance extended to 99 weeks, getting the START treaty ratified and the 9/11 health care bill passed made it one of the most productive lame duck sessions ever.
Although the DREAM ACT did not pass, President Obama was clear during his press conference on Wednesday that he views the passage of this bill as a moral imperative and one which he will continue to make a priority.
These string of wins in a lame duck Congress have not been the result of luck, they are the result of leadership. Radio hosts I work with ask me what changed? Like many CEOs, the president took advice from his advisors. Rahm Emanuel was a contentious chief of staff and the conventional wisdom is that he had President Obama’s full confidence and left of his own volition. My guess is that he was sent gently away after Obama realized that the country was stuck in hopeless partisanship. With Rahm gone he could be his own person and have a direct line to Congress.
Whether he left of his own accord or not, Rahm’s departure forced the president to take the reins of his administration. He not only took the reins, he deftly met with the Republican leadership, worked the phones and used the prestige of his office to badger his party into compromising with the Republicans.
He contacted former Republican secretaries of state and got them to make the case for the START treaty with the GOP Senators.
Although we don’t have tapes from the Oval Office like the LBJ conversations, I think we can assume that president used his new found mojo to cajole and persuade. That cajoling, persuading, effective president is the one the majority of Americans elected. I’m glad he’s back.
Ellen Ratner is Washington bureau chief for Talk Radio News Service and a Fox News contributor.