It was perhaps only a matter of time before Democrats, in the midst of a challenging midterm election campaign, began distancing themselves from an unpopular president. President Barack Obama’s average approval rating sits at 41.6%, according to Real Clear Politics, and he has been under fire recently for the way he hashandled crises both at home and abroad.
A New York Times story published Tuesday lays out the overall deteriorating relationship between Obama and congressional Democrats. One anecdote, stemming from a late-June meeting with congressional leaders to discuss the deteriorating situation in Iraq, tells it best.
With Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, sitting a few feet away, Mr. Reid complained that Senate Republicans were spitefully blocking the confirmation of dozens of Mr. Obama’s nominees to serve as ambassadors. He expected that the president would back him up and urge Mr. McConnell to relent.
Mr. Obama quickly dismissed the matter.
“You and Mitch work it out,” Mr. Obama said coolly, cutting off any discussion.
Mr. Reid seethed quietly for the rest of the meeting, according to four separate accounts provided by people who spoke with him about it. After his return to the Capitol that afternoon, Mr. Reid told other senators and his staff members that he was astonished by how disengaged the president seemed. After all, these were Mr. Obama’s own ambassadors who were being blocked by Mr. McConnell, and Secretary of State John Kerry had been arguing for months that getting them installed was an urgent necessity for the administration.
The Times’ description was confirmed by a source familiar with the meeting. A spokesman for Reid didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The exchange between Obama and Reid, considering that Reid is Obama’s staunchest congressional ally, was the most striking anecdote in a Times story that portrayed a president with dwindling friends on Capitol Hill. The article contains criticism from a wide array of Democrats, including from the red-state Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), one of the Senate’s most left-leaning members.
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) compared “schmoozing with elected officials” to “eating his spinach” for Obama, but Democrats told the paper that Obama’s lack of reaching out harmed congressional relationships.
To the paper, White House aides pushed back on the suggestion — a familiar one — that Obama does not spend enough time reaching out to members of Congress. They told the Times that Obama was caught “off guard” by Reid’s statement in the meeting, and later called McConnell to press him on the issue of ambassador confirmations.
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