President Obama "hasn’t really ever wanted to have long conversations with my boss," an aide to a Democratic Senator whined to The Hill. "It always seems like he’s watching the clock." Well, yeah. As we learned in 2012, Obama hates hanging out with rich folks. And, as we learned earlier this month, Congress has never had more rich folks.
The premise of that Hill story is that Obama's Democratic colleagues in the Senate want to see more "humility" from the president in 2014. "Aides" — it's almost all aides to senators giving the quotes — "say the new faces joining the president’s inner circle suggest a possible new humility following a year that saw Obama hammered" over various things.
A new humility! Can you imagine for one second Congressional Republicans complaining in 2006 about how President Bush was not humble enough? Reagan in 1986? No, because that wouldn't happen because the president is, as they saying goes, the most powerful person in the Western world. It is the world's biggest vanity project, running for president; of course he isn't humble.
The comments are reminiscent of a peer group of those senators: rich people. In 2012, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer reported that Obama's 2008 donors were cranky, feeling as though they weren't getting the sort of attention that they deserved as people capable of writing checks with large numbers on them. Mayer quotes an attendee at a high-dollar fundraiser at the Four Seasons.
“Obama is very meticulous—they have clockwork timing,” one of the attendees says. “After a few minutes at each table, a staffer would come and tap him on the shoulder, and he’d get up. But when people pay thirty thousand they want to talk to you, and take a picture with you. He was trying to be fair, and that’s great, but every time he started to have a real conversation he got tapped.”
Bill Clinton "would have stayed an extra hour." Obama didn't, so the rich folks that wanted an audience "were a little mad."
You know where else there are a lot of politically-minded rich folks besides at fundraisers? The Senate. For the first time in 2013, Congress was comprised of more millionaires than non-millionaires, according to Open Secrets. Rich people, regardless of venue and status, expect a certain level of attention. And this Obama guy just doesn't seem to care.
Pop quiz! "[T]hey seem more open to hearing what we think," someone said. Was it a rich person at a 2012 fundraiser or a staffer for a rich person on Capitol Hill? How about this: "[T]hey didn’t have the capacity to handle all the people who had participated at the highest levels"? Have a guess? One last example: "[I]t’s not about favors. They want the chief of staff calling to get their opinion."
There is a very real possibility that President Obama is bad at glad-handing. That what The Hill calls "humility" is really just that his peers wish the president would engage in the typical butt-kissery of D.C. politics. That he's a guy that's terrible at doing the little things that make his allies feel appreciated. Or maybe — just maybe! — it's that people of privilege don't like it when that position isn't reinforced.
Answers to the pop quiz: The first one was a Senate staffer. The second two were 2012 donors.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.