Is It Really the Congress?
As we move into Obama's second term and see the ongoing GOP obstructionism to any of his initiatives, I and probably many others may fall too easily into the trap of assuming that the problem rests solely upon the GOP. But what if a major part of the problem also rests with Obama's unwillingness or inability to effectively use the presidency to push through initiatives? Maureen Dowd of the NYT went to this point yesterday when she wrote that Obama still seems after one term unable to use the bully pulpit to go after pockets of resistance and get enough votes for his legislative goals. In fact, I would argue that Obama and his team's insularity has resulted in an ineffective legislative liaison operation whereby his team downplays the need for stroking legislators and engaging in power politics because they feel it is beneath Obama.
If the problem was solely a faulty operation, that would be bad enough, but the inability to effectively negotiate because of bad policy choices continues into the second term. One key example is Obama's pathetic belief that by offering the chained CPI in his budget proposal, he would persuade the House GOP to come to the table. This is wrong in so many ways, not the least of which is that Boehner sees no reason to help Obama dig out of his self-inflicted hole with seniors by offering up tax closures. But what does it say about Obama's values when the solution he offers only closes a fifth of the long-term gap in Social Security funding, when the real solution he should be opening with and demanding closes nearly 90% of the gap without hurting seniors? And this is aside from the fact that Social Security has no bearing on our current and near-term debt problem.