In a column in the latest Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes writes that the president has been “inviting members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, to meetings at the White House like never before.” I emphasized those last words as they confirm one of the biggest criticisms I have heard from Republicans (particularly through e-mails and messages from Hill staffers who read the blog) about the president — that he has not done a good job of congressional relations. While he consulted Senators on both sides of the aisle about Supreme Court nominations, he does not normally solicit congressional input on important matters of state. Some feel that had he taken the time just over a year ago to meet with leaders in Congress to flesh out a plan on Social Security, he may have succeeded in enacting some serious reform and thus spared his successors the difficulty of dealing with this popular federal program’s bankruptcy in the not-too-distant future.
One sign of whether the appointment of Josh Bolten as the president’s new chief of staff represents a serious shift in White House policy or just deck chair shuffling on a sinking ship will be how the new chief reshapes the president’s congressional relations’ office — and whether the president starts meeting more regularly with congressional leaders.
Something struck me as I wondered about the president’s failure to consult more regularly with Congress. That an executive who rarely reaches out to the legislative branch has failed to veto a single bill passed by said legislature. It seems sometimes that the president treats Congress the same way a negligent father treats his kids, so focused is he on his agenda that he rarely listens to their concerns. And perhaps feeling guilty for his neglect, that father indulges his children’s every whim, just as the president signs pork-laden bills. A good father, who regularly listens to his kids, is in a far better position to deny them their every request, without losing their affection — or respect. And better able to articulate (in a way the children will understand) the reasons behind that denial.
No wonder congressional Republicans are increasingly defying the president. Negligent/indulgent fathers find that their children become increasingly independent from them, frequently defying their authority. The president can make the last two-and-a-half years of his Administration a success the same way such a once-negligent father can save his family. By paying more attention to his “children.” The president must regularly consult with Congress so that no reporter can ever describe his meetings as Barnes has done, making it so reporters barely find those meetings newsworthy so regularly do they occur.
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com
UPDATE: Curious as to whether there was a clinical term for negligent/indulgent fathers, I e-mailed the blogger Shrinkwrapped to ask his opinion. He wrote back and I reprint with his permission:
At the moment, I can’t think of a specific term for such a father, though the idea of an alternately emotionally neglectful and materially indulgent father fits the caricature of the work-a-holic corporate man of the 50’s. Part of the Narcissism of the baby boomers stems from just such emotional deprivation combined with material indulgence (which is taken to be the equivalent of love; such folks end up valuing things [including ideas] more than people.)