Certainly part of the promise of Obama’s presidency was to get away from the vicious partisanship of Rovian politics as Andrew points out. But I can’t help wondering whether Obama isn’t overplaying this card a bit to the point that it is hurting him on multiple fronts.
I mean, there is a difference between rising above the fray and refusing to participate in mudslinging and remaining so aloof as to not really appear to be engaged at all to a relatively broad cross-section of the polity.
The thing about domestic politics is that it’s very difficult to build consensus – something Obama seems quite fond of – which is one reason why so many presidents tend to focus a great deal of their energy on foreign affairs which are, oddly, much more bipartisan. Yes, Clinton and Bush both pushed serious domestic reforms. And Bush the elder probably would have as well if he’d made it to a second term. Certainly Reagan will be remembered for his domestic reforms – even mythologized for them. But each of these presidents spent an inordinate amount of time acting the part of Leader of the Free World rather than spearheading bold domestic agendas.
I wonder how this dynamic will play out with Obama. With Afghanistan going strong and Iraq still mired in chaos, Obama will obviously have to pay attention to foreign affairs. The question is where his focus will lie after a couple brutal years of policy fights. Where will he delegate and where will he lead? Sometimes foreign wars are less exhausting than domestic ones.