Republicans didn’t win last Tuesday. Democrats lost. In a grim, bitter, graceless news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Obama took no responsibility for what The Economist called a “massacre.” His lack of political humility is disturbing. “I’m the guy who’s elected by everybody,” said Mr. Obama.
As Peggy Noonan writes in the WSJ, the election was not about charisma or personality or movement. The election was about policy and governance. The president was not on the ballot, but as Mr. Obama pointed out, the policies on the ballot were his. And as Peggy notes here, “Those policies were resoundingly repudiated.”
In his news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Obama was grim and grudging, barely bothering to hide suppressed anger. “Republicans had a good night.” He was unwilling to explain or characterize what happened. “I’ll leave it to all of you and the professional pundits to pick through yesterday’s results.” He took no personal responsibility: The people sent a message and it is that Washington must work “as hard as they do.” He was unwilling to say what went wrong, why his party’s candidates didn’t want him near them on the trail. His answers were long, filibuster-y, meant to run out the clock. It was clear the White House wanted to say he met with reporters for more than an hour. He did. At one point he tried to smile but couldn’t quite pull it off; it came across as a Nixon-like flexing of the rictus muscles. (I tried to describe it in my notes. “Hatey” was the best I could do.)
There were airy generalities—“This town doesn’t work well”—and a few humblebrags: “I have a unique responsibility to try and make this town work”; “I’m the guy who’s elected by everybody.”
Most seriously and consequentially—the huge mistake—is that Mr. Obama said he will address immigration through executive action unless Congress sends a comprehensive bill to him that he finds attractive. He said this just after a news conference in which the presumed next Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, in a post-election statement that was actually conciliatory and constructive, said any such move by the president would “poison the well” with Congress. It would be experienced by Republicans on the Hill as pure aggression.
The president’s use of broad executive action would kill any chance of compromise or progress with Congress. And the amazing thing is that this isn’t even in his interests.