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Chuck Todd to Newsmax: Six Years Later, We Still Don't Know Obama

By    |   Tuesday, 18 November 2014 04:40 PM

Six years into his presidency, Barack Obama remains an enigma — an outsider who has failed to engage himself in the complex world of Washington politics, says Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News and moderator of "Meet the Press."

"The most familiar refrain is how many people feel as if six years in, they still don’t know him, they still don’t quite know what makes him tick," Todd said Tuesday during a visit to "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

"I had one Democratic senator who was a big supporter of him in the primary against Hillary Clinton saying '[I] backed the wrong horse, I didn’t realize he hadn't climbed the greasy pole of politics.'"

Todd is author of the new book, "The Stranger: Barack Obama in White House," published by Little, Brown and Company.

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He chronicles how Obama won the presidency in 2008 — partly because he was a Washington outsider — but discovered how hard it was to take on partisans and old guard networks allied to undermine his agenda, including some Democrats.

Todd describes in the book how while Obama passed some of the most significant legislation in American history, his own weaknesses torpedoed some of his greatest hopes.

"He's known to have loved playing poker in his pre-presidential years (the card game spades is his game of choice now), and like a good poker player, he can be hard to read," Todd writes.

"He came to Washington on the strength of being a stranger to the city and to the political elites, but it hasn't always served him well. His has not been an easy presidency, if such a thing exists. In the age of Obama, both Washington and the president have the scars to show just how tough the battle has been."

In his interview with Malzberg, Todd said: "The issue is, he’s not a big practitioner of insider politics, inside game … If you want to talk about it in basketball terms, he's all outside shot. He doesn’t like to elbow on the inside when you need to."

Todd said Obama was frustrated at how many in his own party turned their backs on him during the midterm elections.

"He’s frustrated and he looks back and says Democrats ran away from him," he said.

Obama's promise to use his executive power to bring sweeping immigration reform to the nation was delayed "only for politics," according to Todd.

"And then his answer to me was, no, it wasn’t just about center politics. He said, it was also about [how] the politics of the issue changed over the summer with the influx of undocumented children," he said.

"Well, if that’s the case, if politics mattered then in September, boy then how does the midterms and the way immigration was debated not matter now?

"He has put himself in a box, but in this respect he’s mad about it because he never wanted to delay and that’s why, you wonder why he’s doubling down. He believes that had Democrats backed up his record more they wouldn’t have done any worse and maybe he thinks they would have done better."

Todd said Obama also believes that Republican House Speaker John Boehner didn’t negotiate in good faith.

"There’s two sides to that story on that front … presidents are stuck whether they like it or not, that no matter how many times their hand gets slapped away, if they believe it’s getting slapped away they’ve got to keep trying," Todd said.

"He set himself up and saying hey I’m the adult in the room. Well, if you’re going to be the adult in the room you always have to be the adult in the room."

Todd appears convinced the next two lame-duck years of the Obama administration will be turbulent.

"I feel like the immigration and healthcare issues are so toxic right now, the way both parties feel about them that I don’t know how both parties set them aside and get the other stuff done," he said.

On the issue of the Obama administration's sometimes turbulent relationship with Israel, Todd said:

"I would look at it in terms of Obama’s from Mars and [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s from Venus … The relationship between the countries is better than it is between the two men," he said.

"This is about a lack of chemistry between two men."

Todd also discussed the perception that the media has liberal slant.

There is cultural bias ... The bias stems from the fact that the news media is headquartered in New York City," Todd said.

"America feels as if New York sort of imposes more [of] its cultural values. That is what has created the perception that therefore, all media leans left."

But Todd argued that all news reports contain some bias, even if it's unintentional.

"How you cover stories is biased, how I cover stories," Todd told Malzberg. "You know why? We’re human beings. We’re all born with original bias."

Todd believes social media sometimes unfairly drives news coverage by instantaneously whipping up emotions without a proper overview.

"We have allowed social media in some ways … we’ve allowed politics to have too much faux anger," he said.

Prior to taking the helm of "Meet the Press" in September 2014, Todd served as NBC News Chief White House Correspondent (2008-2014) as well as host of MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown."

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Six years into his presidency, Barack Obama remains an enigma to most Americans - an outsider who has failed to engage himself in complex world of Washington politics, says Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News and moderator of "Meet the Press."
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Tuesday, 18 November 2014 04:40 PM
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