The New York Times editorial page said as much in "Stuck in Purgatory". The OPED cited a massive backlog of federal regulatory reviews and urged the White House to break the logjams: "At the end of the day, what the public needs most is not just a more timely and transparent review process but a president unafraid of Republicans or corporate interests and determined to enact his regulatory agenda."
Take the US EPA in Florida, for example. The EPA's perplexing failure to insist on tough pollution standards in Florida is political capitulation, pure and simple. President Obama is not the first Democratic president, to be sure, to put environmental regulatory priorities at the bottom of the list. (cf, Bill Clinton)
That said, there is no excuse for the White House to throw Florida environmentalists to the wolves, which is exactly the case with an EPA beaten down by politics. So what is the Obama White House calculation?
Is there really a group that gathers in the West Wing and decides that EPA can't be too tough on sewage standards in Miami-Dade because we will risk losing an electoral margin if the rock miners, the sugar barons, and the homebuilders are too stirred up?
I imagine there are even higher ranked staff in the Executive Office itself whose thinking proceeds along the following line: if Florida voters empower radical conservatives, Florida deserves the consequences. We are not going to fight the issues of federalism versus states' rights in Florida, where the Jeb! Bush privatization of public services like education and prisons have taken root, or, where a federal appeals court has proven extraordinarily ambivalent to environmental protection.
It gets worse, in my imagination. "We'll come down every four years and kick their asses but we won't draw further attention to states like Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama that are doing just fine, winning their own races to the bottom."
Too cynical? Judge by the outcomes, because that really is the only evidence we have. The absence of meaningful pollution standards for Florida's waters, the failure to insist on hardening Miami-Dade's climate resiliency for infrastructure deficits judged to be illegal in federal court, despite recent presidential speeches -- is not a sign of distraction: it signals a White House feigning strength but too distracted find the threads of grand themes in lost states like Florida, too disengaged to work through the consequences of serial regulatory failures, and a deep disappointment to those who hoped for more.