by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[T]here’s a bigger problem. It’s not Obama’s inability to get along with Republicans. Nor is it the fact that he’s an exceptionally poor negotiator. The real problem is simply Obama’s refusal to compromise.
The president claims to be open to compromise. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s not a coincidence that he hasn’t arranged a single bipartisan compromise with Republicans. Others in his orbit have—Vice President Biden twice, Senate majority leader Harry Reid once—but not Obama personally. He wrecks compromises. He doesn’t facilitate them.
In 2011, he came close to negotiating a $4 trillion “grand bargain” with House speaker John Boehner—before blowing it up. Boehner went out on a limb by agreeing to $800 billion in tax hikes, but Obama insisted on $400 billion more in taxes. That killed the compromise.
Following his reelection in November, the president appeared receptive to a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff. But he suddenly increased his demands far beyond what Republicans could swallow. Thus, no compromise. Instead, a cliff deal was forced on Republicans, who feared being blamed for raising taxes. It was largely on Obama’s terms.
Why is Obama unable to compromise? I think there are both personal and political reasons. Far more than other politicians, Obama is convinced of the rightness of whatever he proposes. As best I can tell, this is not merely an excess of self-confidence. It’s a vanity, a conceit. On top of that, Obama regards practically everything Republicans want as ideologically toxic.