Donald Lambro
President Obama would have failed Negotiations 101, if there was such a course, the first rule being "do not insult" the people you're dealing with.

Hitting the road to campaign for his plan to raise taxes on small business employers, investors and people in the top two income brackets, he hurled some mean-spirited accusations and insults at House Republican leaders even before they got down to serious negotiations to avoid the dreaded "fiscal cliff."

House Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team, whom Obama likened to Charles Dickens' hard-hearted, skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge, were offering the American people nothing more than a "lump of coal" for a "Scrooge Christmas" this year.

It was, shall we say, an inauspicious opening gambit in a round of negotiations on which the economic well-being of the nation hangs in the balance. But it sent a very clear message that the president wasn't taking this seriously.

In a few weeks, our country could be pushed back into another recession if both sides cannot agree on a way to prevent everyone's taxes from rising sharply on Jan. 1.

Yet there was Obama pretending his political blood sport campaign wasn't over, going on the attack, and making a meaningless offer to Boehner that was nothing more than his original budget proposal, which Congress had rejected out of hand: $60 billion a year in spending reductions, a puny 1.6 percent out of a nearly $4 trillion annual budget.

On top of that, he wanted Congress to give him greater powers than he already has -- powers that the Constitution gives to Congress: control over raising the debt limit when and how he wishes.

Boehner responded with great restraint, telling reporters that the president clearly wasn't taking these negotiations seriously. Obama, he remarked, had made a "la-la-land offer."

"We could have responded in kind, but we decided not to do that," the Ohio congressman said. It was a class act versus a Chicago- style, former community organizer who thinks he is still in the 2012 campaign and that this is no time for leadership.

But the cruel irony is that it's Obama's policies that will be giving the Americans a "lump of coal" this Christmas -- in increased unemployment, a slowing economy and the threat of higher, punitive tax rates that have already begun rippling throughout a business community paralyzed by uncertainty.

And, it should be added, sitting on nearly $2 trillion in cash assets because they fear the future under the next four years of a persistently weak Obama economy that is not going to get any better anytime soon.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.