Michael Barone
"The most important lesson I've learned is that you can't change Washington from the inside," Barack Obama said in an interview Thursday on the Spanish-language Univision network. "You can only change it from the outside."

A better way to put it is that Barack Obama has proved he can't change Washington from the inside.

One case in point is the comprehensive immigration legislation Obama promised to steer to passage in his first term. The Univision interviewers, who asked tougher questions than the president has been getting from David Letterman or various rappers, zeroed in on this issue.

With a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate and a solid Democratic majority in the House in 2009 and 2010, Obama could have pushed for an immigration bill.

Instead, he acquiesced in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision not to bring such a measure to the floor. It would require some of her members to cast tough votes.

But, with Obama's encouragement, she did bring to the floor and pushed through a cap-and-trade bill that also required some of her members to cast tough and in some cases career-ending votes.

Cap-and-trade was a favorite of gentry liberals, the kind of people Obama regularly has seen at his 200-plus fundraising events. As for the Hispanics who want immigration legislation, he's now promising that he'll push it in his second term. Wait in line.

George W. Bush managed to get congressional votes on comprehensive immigration bills. Obama didn't bother.

Obama's inability to change Washington from the inside is also on display in Bob Woodward's latest bestseller, "The Price of Politics."

He tells how in a meeting of congressional leaders Pelosi muted a speakerphone as Obama droned on lecturing members on the national interest, so the legislators could get some work done.

He shows how Obama blew up the summer 2011 grand bargain negotiations with Speaker John Boehner by suddenly raising his demands.

Boehner had already agreed to increased revenues from high earners through tax reform that would eliminate or limit deductions whose benefits go largely to those with high incomes.

That's the kind of tax reform recommended by Obama's Simpson-Bowles Commission, whose report quickly found its way to his round file.

It had the support of congressional Republicans like vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and Republicans on the supercommittee.

But Obama insisted on higher tax rates for high earners -- proposals that tend to bring in less revenue than forecast -- and raised the ante on Boehner.


Michael Barone

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. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM