Presidential Leadership is a Myth

Ezra Klein writes in Wonkbook today about why gun control measures with mass support (90% of Americans support background checks) can’t pass through Congress:

If public opinion remains this uninformed despite overwhelming media coverage of the issue, the president’s aggressive use of the bully pulpit, and the focusing power of a national tragedy, then that suggests public opinion can’t effectively be leveraged even in extremely favorable circumstances. These results don’t explain the fluke status of gun control. They explain why majority support is a reliably weak predictor of congressional action.

As Klein goes on to say, much of the Washington press still operates as if Obama has not used the bully pulpit enough. You often hear this in the form of him not showing enough  “leadership.” But this is just a flawed way of looking at how D.C. works. The President has given more than a dozen, heartfelt speeches since Newtown on gun control. He’s put in calls to Congress and sent Vice President Biden to the hill to lobby for stricter gun control measures. What else can he do? What power does the bully pulpit have when in the face of a national tragedy and an overwhelming majority demanding action, the President can give speech after speech with nothing to show for it? The answer is none. Presidential leadership is just code for blaming each party equally, when only one is to blame.