The Post-Presidential Presidency

Americans do not have a president. As the last month as effectively demonstrated, the country is instead stuck with a perpetual campaigner whose every policy decision is rooted in base political concerns.

President Obama doesn’t care one whit about Catholic institutions’ position on contraceptives, for instance. Catholic institutions were not being targeted by the president for their own perceived misdeeds — but because they were effective pawns in his political chess game.┬áHe debased the office of the presidency by using its power to drag his political opponents into a counterproductive public argument about it. One week, Obama lights up a controversy about contraception; the next, a well-designed political campaign erupts from Democratic institutions deceitfully implying that Republicans want to ban contraception. Funny timing, that.

President Obama punts on making difficult foreign policy decisions, fearing (quite rightly) that Americans may oppose them and thus endanger his electoral prospects — witness his troubling remark to the Russians last week. Of course, with this president, those electoral prospects take precedence over a simple desire to act on the beliefs he thinks to be right for the country. George W. Bush provides a helpful contrast: while he may have committed many blunders, it’s difficult to deny the forthright nature of his policies.

President Obama doesn’t know or care what the health care law enables the federal government to do. Since he was not involved in the crafting of the law, he’ll be as glad as anyone that the law was passed so he can find out what’s in it. He opposed its central tenet, the unconstitutional individual mandate, just a few years ago. He just wanted something — anything — done to ensure his place in history as a reformer.

And now that his centerpiece reform may rest in shambles when the Supreme Court rules on its constitutionality, President Obama will masquerade as an opponent of judicial activism, which not only is not what the court would be engaging in by striking down the law, but is a position Obama has advocated for during his entire adult life.

This is the man who threw his grandmother under the bus to boost his electoral prospects. The man who refuses to engage his opponents honestly. The man who would love to simply ignore Congress and make up his own laws. The man who deliberately misleads Americans about differences between types of taxes.

He is unusually dishonest, yet strangely desperate. He is so clearly in over his head and so utterly devoid of the political skill necessary to maneuver anything of interest through Congress (witness the unanimous rejection of his administration’s proposed budget) that he is reduced to flailing around aimlessly in his dealings, whether with Russia, Mitt Romney, or the Supreme Court.

He is good at nothing but campaigning — and now we’re stuck with a president who doesn’t know how to do anything else.

Alex Knepper