President Obama Sends Mixed Messages after Republican Landslide

( [email protected] ) Nov 07, 2014 02:15 PM EST
President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama. Reuters

Tuesday's midterm election resulted in a massive shift in power in Washington, D.C., and gave Republicans total control of both the Senate and House of Representatives. In a press conference the following afternoon, President Barack Obama offered a commentary chalked with contradiction, and what some commentators believe to be an underlying tone of defiance.

Campaigning over the weekend, the president said "The American people are with us on all the big issues. You know it. I know it. The polls show it."

But in state after state, election results unveiled a much different landscape. The GOP won important races for the governor's office in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Maryland, and now holds control of both chambers of Congress.

During Wednesday's press conference, the president said that he heard the message voters were sending. He also added that just one third of voters turned out at the polls. But Tuesday's subsequent wave election would suggest it was largely his Democrat constituents who comprised the remaining two thirds who didn't vote at all on all the big issues.

In early October, the president said in a speech at Northwestern University, "I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle's pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them."

But after crushing defeats for Democrat candidates and ideologies on Tuesday, he changed course. It wasn't his policies that were voted down, he said, but rather the American people wanting politicians to get things done.

After acknowledging the Republicans had a good night, he said, "What's most important to the American people right now, the resounding message not just of this election but basically the last several, is get stuff done."

"Get stuff done" was a key phrase the president used throughout a more than hour long press conference to discuss his thoughts on the Republican dominated midterm election.

On Wednesday, syndicated columnist George Will noted the president's disregard for his own suggestion that all of his policies were on the ballot. "The president commented that voters were clearly upset with "this town," Will said, "He repeatedly said "stuff doesn't get done in this town."

When asked about if he felt responsible to recalibrate his agenda for the next two years, the president talked about his belief that the American people have an overwhelming sense that current tactics aren't working well. "As president, they rightly hold me accountable to make it work more properly."

The most important thing he can do is assist Congress in getting stuff done, he said.

But by the president's own admission, he will override Congress to move his agenda forward. Though he held off for a year in taking executive action to resolve the battle of immigration reform, he hinted at an executive order by the end of 2014. Quick rejection of Republican legislation is also expected.

"I think there probably will be an irresistible impulse to send the president a repeal of Obamacare," Will said. "Which he will then veto - that gesture having been made."

The president spoke of potential overlaps in Democrat and Republican ideas that could ease gridlock and move the country forward. He also referred to evidence that backs up his own ideas as being good for the economy. And though he anticipates that Republicans wont' agree with him, he vowed to keep arguing his stance because his ideas are "the right thing for the country."

As for GOP ideas on progress, the president didn't ask for the same evidence, but instead offered his view.

"There will be some ideas that they think would be good for the economy and create jobs, and from my perspective, aren't going to help middle class families improve their economic situation," he said. "So I probably won't support theirs."

Less than 10 minutes into Wednesday's press conference, the president had already contradicted his opening words. "Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign," he said, "I'm pretty sure that I'll take some actions that some in Congress will not like. That's natural. That's how democracy works."

The president recognized that the country has big things to do, and that progress can be made together.  While discussing his most important goal, his previous mention of his own agenda and his willingness to work against Congress voided his comment. 

"I may have a naïve confidence but I think that if we continue to focus on the American people and not on our own ambitions or image or various concerns like that - at the end of the day, when I look back -I'm going to be able to say the American people are better off than they were before I was president," he said. "That's my most important goal."

Brit Hume, Fox News senior political analysts, discussed the effects of a now Republican controlled Senate, and the past gridlock created by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He has been key in blocking Republican initiatives and promoting Obama's interests.

"All this is going to change the atmosphere here for sure," he said. "With Harry Reid not here to block, though out of sight from most people, all the legislation that Republicans are producing."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's retention of his seat in Kentucky was vital to the GOP, and moved him into position to replace Sen. Reid.

"My purpose is to suggest that the Senate can be better than it has been, and that it must be if we're to remain great as a nation," McConnell said after his victory. "If America is to face up to the challenges we face in the decades ahead, she'll need the Senate the Founders in their wisdom intended, not the hollow shell of the Senate we have today."

Obama acknowledged that Sen. McConnell has always been straightforward with him, and has never made a promise he couldn't deliver. "He knows the legislative process and his caucus well," the president said, "I think we can have a productive relationship."

The president vowed to spend more time with Sen. McConnell in order to accomplish the tasks set before them.

"I think the American people are going to be able to watch us - they're paying attention - to see whether or not we're serious about compromising and being constructive.