Hatch said he personally liked Obama, but the senator called this administration the “most disrespectful and hostile to Congress” in his nearly four decades in Washington. “I think it’s his personality,” he said. “You can’t do these things without Congress.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., memorably hung up on Obama when he called to introduce himself just after his election. (She didn’t believe that it was him, and he convinced her only after the third time.) But Ros-Lehtinen, who was then the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, became hopeful that they could forge a relationship.
“I thought he was going to have excellent relations with members of Congress if he was calling little old me,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “Little did I know that that was going to be as good as it gets.”
Obama’s closest allies say it’s been difficult to work with Republicans since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” That statement came nearly two years into Obama’s term.
“I go to work there every day, and when you face 382 Republican filibusters, which is what we faced over the past six years, before Obama and since his arrival, it is hard to say that they’re just waiting for an invitation to tea to treat us more nicely,” said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
“Having Cantor and McConnell over for cocktails once a week wouldn’t have made a difference,” agreed Bill Burton, a former Obama staffer who works for Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama super PAC. He was referring to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
There’s no reason to think, experts say, that Obama will change in a second term if he’s reelected next month.
In his autobiography, Dreams From My Father, Obama said he saw other people as an “unnecessary distraction” and that even as a young man he avoided groups.
He was raised in the United States and Indonesia by his mother and his grandparents after his father moved away and his parents divorced.
“If the talk began to wander, or cross the border into familiarity, I would soon find reason to excuse myself,” he wrote. “I had grown too comfortable in my solitude, the safest place I knew.”
In Washington, Obama mostly avoids parties and restaurants, except for occasional date nights with his wife or, recently, small dinners with campaign volunteers and contest winners. He hasn’t joined a church, though several tried to woo the first family. He relaxes by playing golf, but usually with the same young aides.
He hosts the requisite parties at the White House, though not always with much enthusiasm: Artist Chuck Close said in a Sept. 12 New Yorker article that he was told he had eight minutes to photograph Obama for a portrait he was painting. Instead, Close said, the president complied happily for more than hour, despite pleas from his aides that he needed to leave.
“Finally,” Close told the magazine, “he said that there was a picnic for Congress in the White House backyard.”
Martha Joynt Kumar, a Towson University political science professor who studies the presidency and keeps detailed records of Obama’s news media interactions, said Obama might have been a loner from the start. She noted that’s unlikely to change as time alone and with family becomes even more rare in the glare of the office.