From Chicago, he brings the assumption that there will always be a bounteous private sector that can be plundered endlessly on behalf of political favorites. Hence the government takeover of General Motors and Chrysler to bail out the United Auto Workers, the proposal for channeling money from the private nonprofits to the government by limiting the charitable deduction for high earners and the plan for expanding government (and public employee union rolls) by instituting universal pre-kindergarten.
Chicago-style, he has kept the Republicans out of serious policy negotiations but has allowed left-wing Democrats to veto a measure upholding his own decision not to release interrogation photos. While promising a politics of mutual respect, he peppers both his speeches and impromptu responses with jabs at his predecessor. Basking in the adulation of nearly the entire press corps, he whines about his coverage on Fox News. Those who stand in the way, like the Chrysler secured creditors, are told that their reputations will be destroyed. Those who expose wrongdoing by political allies, like the AmeriCorps inspector general, are fired.
Obama entered the presidency with what seemed like supreme self-confidence. He had, after all, advanced from the Illinois state Senate to the presidency of the United States in just four years -- a steeper and more rapid ascent than any president since Woodrow Wilson. The success of his long-range campaign strategy seems to have made him confident that his long-range policy strategies would work, as well.
But transferring large segments of the American economy from the private to the public sector has proved to be tougher than winning Democratic primaries and caucuses. And Ahmadinejad and Kim Jong Il have proved to be harder to charm than American mainstream media.
It's generally good for American presidents to have long-term strategies. But in setting public policy, it's important to get the details right. And in guiding the nation in a dangerous world, it's vital to adjust to face hard realities and adjust to unexpected events.
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