McCaskill details Obama's 'shortcomings' in working with Congress

McCaskill details Obama's 'shortcomings' in working with Congress
© Greg Nash

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGinsburg health scare raises prospect of election year Supreme Court battle MSNBC's McCaskill: Trump used 'his fat thumbs' to try to intimidate Yovanovitch GOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' MORE (Mo.) offered a blunt assessment of President Obama’s ability to work with members of Congress in an interview with former top Obama aide David AxelrodDavid AxelrodGary Cohn says he's 'concerned' no one is left in White House to stand up to Trump Tucker Carlson: Obama has not backed Biden because Michelle Obama could run David Axelrod: Biden 'Mr. Magooing his way' through Democratic primary MORE

“He is my friend and I am loyal to him,” she said of Obama in the interview released Thursday. “But one of the president's shortcomings is that sometimes he sees the world through his eyes and doesn’t do, I think, enough work on being empathetic about how other people view things.”

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Axelrod, who now hosts “The Axe Files” political podcast, recalled an exchange with the president after leaving a meeting with Senate Democrats during the push to pass the Affordable Care Act.

After leaving the Capitol, Axelrod said Obama asked him what the senators were “so scared of.” 

“I said, ‘Well, I think they may be scared of losing their jobs,’” Axelrod replied. 

McCaskill, who endorsed Obama over Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThree legal scholars say Trump should be impeached; one thinks otherwise Report: Barr attorney can't provide evidence Trump was set up by DOJ Jayapal pushes back on Gaetz's questioning of impeachment witness donations to Democrats MORE in the 2008 Democratic primary, said she agreed he often struggled to understand why lawmakers were hesitant to take politically risky votes on key pieces of his agenda.

“I had the same conversation with him,” the senator said. “I called him and I said, ‘Listen, you know this could cost you reelect.' He said, ‘well, it’s worth it to me on healthcare.’ And I said, ‘Okay, good for you, I’m there.” 

McCaskill is the latest member of Obama’s own party to criticize his handling of Congress, a critique that has dogged him throughout his presidency. 

The president faced criticism from both Republicans and Democrats for his rhetoric in response to the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

Some Democrats have expressed concern that Obama’s low marks on handling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could hurt the party’s standing in the presidential and down-ballot races in 2016. 

With just 13 months left in office, the president’s list of priorities for Congress is dwindling. But he still must harness enough support to guarantee passage of his signature Pacific Rim trade deal, criminal justice reform legislation and a long-shot bid at tax reform. 

The Missouri senator, who is backing Clinton in next year’s presidential race, also echoed some concerns about the former secretary of State. 

She said Clinton is a “much stronger candidate” than she was in 2008 because her experience on the world stage “has given her a depth in terms of her capability that far exceeds anyone in the field.”

But she said Clinton still has trouble “opening up” to voters and the media. 

“She still is who she is,” she said. “She’s not comfortable opening up. She still has some defensive crouches because she’s gone through a life of being attacked and expects to be attacked. Sometimes it’s hard to be on offense when you think you have to be on defense.”

“I think that has contributed to at times her inability – you know, the knock on her is that she’s not authentic,” McCaskill added. “Well, I think she is being authentic. I think it’s who she is.”

McCaskill also took aim at two of Clinton’s potential Republican opponents: Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Ted Cruz (Texas). 

She said Rubio has the respect of his Senate colleagues and is a real threat to win the nomination, but knocked him for abandoning a bipartisan immigration reform bill he helped write. 

“I watched him find that sweet spot of compromise on immigration reform, but then he broke down like a cheap shotgun the minute the right started chewing on his rear end,” she said. 

By contrast, Cruz is “smart and calculating” but does not have the respect of other members of the upper chamber. 

“You need to be respected by other senators if you have what it takes to be president of the United States,” she said. “I mean, Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaLGBTQ advocates slam Buttigieg for past history with Salvation Army Jayapal pushes back on Gaetz's questioning of impeachment witness donations to Democrats Gaetz clashes with Stanford professor: 'It makes you look mean' MORE wasn’t popular with all the other senators, but he was respected. Marco is respected. I don’t think Ted has the respect of his fellow senators.”