Roger Simon: Why the President looks so exhausted
He knows this. At a recent speech, he said that people are always telling him to "hang in there."
"Don't worry about me!" Obama said. "I am still fired up . because I still see the work that needs to be done!"
But by last Sunday, he seemed drained again. Speaking at a memorial to those slain in the Navy Yard shooting, he pointed out it was the fifth time in his presidency that he has addressed communities "ripped apart by mass violence." And his presidency is not even 5 years old.
"By now," he said, "it should be clear that the change we need will not come from Washington, even when tragedy strikes Washington. Change will come the only way it ever has come, and that's from the American people."
How sad. How true.
I do not blame the President. I do not blame the nation. Nor will I say "the system" is to blame.
It is the fable of "The Scorpion and the Frog," which dates back at least as far as Aesop and has many forms. It goes like this:
A scorpion comes to the edge of a stream and asks a frog to carry him across. "But if you sting me, I will die," the frog says. The scorpion replies, "But if you died, I would drown." So the frog begins to take the scorpion across, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog.
"It is my nature," the scorpion says.
There are scorpions among us. They sit in Congress, committed not to solving problems but to blocking solutions.
I am not talking about the entire Republican Party. I am talking about a faction of far-right, Tea Party-driven congressmen who do not care who drowns. They don't have real alternate plans to help people. They weren't, they believe, elected to help people. They were elected, they believe, to keep the other side from helping people.
The audience laughed, but Obama was deadly serious. Our government lurches from crisis to crisis. Our nation staggers from brink to brink. And why? To mess with the guy in the Oval Office, that's why. (And now that you mention it, where was he really born?)
"You should expect some compassion; you should expect some compromise," Obama told the autoworkers. "You should expect the conviction of leaders who wake up and go to work every day not to tear something down but to build something better." (Oh, stop. You're killing me. This is just too funny.)
The week before last, Congress voted to cut $40 billion from the food stamp program over the next 10 years, even though food stamps keep many working people, including military families, from slipping into poverty.
The good news is that this probably won't happen. In the unlikely event the bill were to be passed, Obama would veto it.
It is just more games. More politics. More meanness of spirit. More trying to tear down rather than build up.
Roger Simon is Politico's chief political columnist.