But last Thursday two influential Republicans, Rep. Eric Cantor and Sen. Jon Kyl, left the bargaining table and said that they wouldn't return until Democrats dropped demands for tax increases. After all, if the Democrats hadn't been able to raise taxes on high earners when they had large majorities in December's lame duck session, what makes anyone think this more Republican Congress will raise them now?
Cantor said it was impossible to make progress unless Obama got personally involved. Top Senate Democrat Harry Reid said the same thing. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, fresh from making a bipartisan compromise on public employee benefits, offered succinct advice: "First, the president can show up."
Well, Obama has agreed to do that Monday. But while Chauncey Gardiner, in his befuddlement, tried to answer questions squarely, Obama has seemed less interested in the substance of public policy than in framing issues for the next presidential campaign.
That was plainly the case in the decisions on Afghanistan he announced Wednesday night. Regardless of conditions on the ground, the president promised that the last of the surge troops will be removed by September 2012, the month Democrats hold their national convention.
As for Libya, Obama pretends we're not involved in "hostilities" and has been content to "lead from behind." Another sop to the antiwar left.
Sometimes it seems he's president of the AFL-CIO, not the U.S.A. The man who said he wanted to double exports in five years has nothing to say about his National Labor Relations Board appointee's attempt to shut down a $1 billion plant being built by the nation's No. 1 exporter.
And don't forget the enviro types. Obama is releasing oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but his appointees are barring drilling in the Gulf and Alaska and refusing approval for a natural gas pipeline from Canada.
On all these issues, Obama seems oddly disengaged, aloof from the hard work of government, hesitant about making choices.
That doesn't sound like Lincoln. Or Roosevelt. Or even Jimmy Carter. More like "then we have fall and winter."
Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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