By Scott Wilson
May 13, 2013
There was a guiding principle early in President Obama’s first term that in Washington it is always better to be pitching than catching.
The stimulus bill, the bank and auto industry bailouts, Wall Street regulation, health-care legislation, Muslim outreach abroad — the first two years featured Obama as pitcher.
But now, as the clearly frustrated president revealed Monday, he finds himself in the position of catcher.
Events and the web of questions surrounding them are forcing the president to respond, often defensively and sometimes angrily, at a time when he would rather be setting the terms of the country’s political conversation.
Political power ebbs more quickly for a second-term president, who usually has only until the next midterm elections to work his will in Washington. After setbacks on gun-control legislation and fiscal negotiations, that time is being absorbed by issues at the edges of Obama’s ability to control.
“You start thinking about history and start thinking in longer sweeps of time,” Obama said Monday during a fundraising event at the New York City home of film producer Harvey Weinstein. “And you start saying to yourself, the 3½ years you’ve got is not a lot.”
Whether it is pressure to live up to his red-line warnings to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or to address a seemingly endless string of questions from Republicans over the attacks last year in Benghazi, Libya, Obama is not talking about what he intended to — or at least not to the degree he had hoped.
Four months after his inauguration, Obama would rather be highlighting the economic agenda contained in his budget proposal, implementation of his health-care act and the need for immigration reform. He has sought to do so in recent weeks, but to little political effect.
When Obama does attempt to push his agenda, his message has been drowned out by questions concerning his administration’s competence and candor. On Friday, an attempt to publicize his health-care law was overshadowed by news that the Internal Revenue Service had investigated conservative groups.
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