Back in the dog days of George W. Bush’s second term, when each month seemed to bring new lows for the president’s approval ratings, there was almost always this consolation: The surveys would show that Congress was even less popular than he was.
In general, that’s going to be the advantage an executive enjoys over a collective body such as a legislature. Hence the decision by Barack Obama to take a page out of Harry Truman’s 1948 playbook and campaign for re-election against a “do-nothing Congress.” Given his record, it may be his wisest course.
It’s also a gift to Republicans—if the party’s presidential nominee has enough wit to turn it to his advantage.
Let’s take the politics first. However useful the “do-nothing Congress” theme may be for Mr. Obama, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of Harry Reid in an election when the Democratic majority he enjoys in the Senate is up for grabs. To the contrary, it opens the door for Republicans to turn the tables in a way that squeezes Mr. Reid and his fellow Senate enablers: between a Democratic president attacking them implicitly, and a Republican presidential contender attacking them explicitly.