One diarist asks that we all take a stab at explaining him and his style of government. Well, the best place to look is the horses mouth. All you need to do is read President Obama's books, especially the first one. Study his history, listen to straightforward statements from him and about him, and examine his actions. How else could you know? But what other method could you come to any conclusion?
So here's my take:
1. President Obama is an institutionalist.
He isn't by any means a reformer or a radical. President Obama believes in the system as is, because he believes that whatever our democratic system of government can produce, no matter how minute, is the best we can do. Name a single initiative that President Obama has proposed that is sweeping restructuring of society, akin something like the New Deal or the Reagan Revolution. You can't because he's not into that kind of thing.
President Obama has always believed in American institutions because they have never failed him. On the South Side of Chicago, however, he did see those institutions fail other people. He wanted to do something about that, but not in a way that was off the beaten path. No black panther in him at all. He is one of those people who believes that things can be made to work if only reasonable people like himself were at the center of power willing to work together for everyone's benefit. That is how he made things work at Harvard Law Review, for example.
So you're never going to get pushing of the envelope from him because he's just not the kind of guy to do that. He works with the system that is in front of him. Whatever that produces is the best he can do and he is satisfied with that.
2. President Obama has no political ideology.
Seriously. There isn't anything President Obama believes in so rigidly that he's willing to murder someone over it. No deep core beliefs. He has no political ideology. He's said so himself on multiple occasions. People close to him say so. President Obama has no dogs in the hunt. He is flexible, malleable, and seeks consensus wherever consensus can be found.
He believes that ideology is unhealthy. That doesn't mean he's a robot, of course. He has values, many of which we share. It's just he isn't willing to hold fast to those values when an opportunity for consensus arises. This fits neatly into his "post-partisan" schtick. President Obama is a Democrat, but only because he has no choice. You can't get elected without a major party and he has no chance in the Republican Party because he isn't a right wing nutcase. But he seriously sees himself as separate from ideological politics. That's why he doesn't engage in things like being a party builder. Obama Party is his party. A party of non-ideological, non-partisan, consensus builders who are in favor of things getting done in an orderly non-political process. Technocrats.
3. President Obama doesn't like politics.
If there is one thing you'll hear from Obama and all his people, it is this: "Don't play politics." You see, Obama hates politics. I've explained this on the front page before. What Obama likes is governing. Making decisions. Conducting negotiations. Organizing things. He's a doer of stuff, but not any particular stuff. Politics, as the president sees it, is a distraction from those things. That's why he's always asking people in Washington not to engage in it.
Of course, he himself has. He's a politician, of course. But the President sees campaign season as something "silly." He's above that sort of thing, but realizes it has to be done if you want to get to do the really good stuff like conducting negotiations and administrating agencies. But once campaign season is over, President Obama likes to promptly disregard that whole thing and strictly focus on doing the job of government. Very admirable attitude in my view. Too bad he's about the only person in Washington who actually believes it.
So, you add these things up and it is perfectly understandable how to influence Obama.
Obama is not a public executive type leader, out front of the issues and storming the country. He's a consensus building legislator, deep in the smoke filled back rooms, negotiating deals and slapping backs. He doesn't like public discussion about government policy. He likes private discussions that lead to public announcements, which is why he's been harder on leaks than any president in recent memory. You wont find him storming around the country, stemwinding and barn burning. You'll find him in the White House, inviting all interested parties for private meetings and negotiation sessions. So using public pressure and rallies are futile. He doesn't respond to the passions of the populace. That wouldn't be responsible. That we be called "sticking your finger in the wind" and he hates that sort of thing.
Therefore, if you want to influence Obama:
1. You'll need to get yourself in a high position with some major clout from major institutions.
2. You'll need to not have any particular views that you're not willing to abandon in search of consensus.
3. You'll need to not have any political goals.
4. You'll need to operate in secret.
In other words, you need to be Tim Geithner.