Michael Barone

Acting like a responsible adult or a spoiled child? Spoiled child for Republicans in Congress, 69-25 (CNN/ORC). Responsible adult for Obama -- but only by a 49-47 margin.

Clear majorities prefer that politicians compromise rather than stick to principle, majorities large enough that many people are not sticking to party lines on this.

One can argue that the same voters who re-elected a Democratic president and returned a Republican House are not entitled to complain when each refuses to give in. Each side is acting out of principled conviction.

But one can also argue that each side has made blunders. House Republicans started by refusing to fund the government without defunding Obamacare -- a result Democrats surely would never permit and which large majorities in polls oppose.

In response, Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have flatly refused to negotiate. The administration has tried to block World War II veterans from visiting their open-air memorial.

Democrats believe that a shutdown would be politically disastrous for Republicans. But the 1995-96 wasn't, and back then Bill Clinton made a great show of negotiating.

Obama's refusal to negotiate is less attractive. It is stunning that 47 percent of Americans say that a twice-elected president is behaving like a spoiled child rather than a responsible adult.

Elections are zero sum games: One side must win. Knock down the other guys sufficiently and you will.

Partisan struggles like this are not: Both sides can lose ground, as happened after grand bargain negotiations collapsed in August 2011.

The message I hear voters sending through their poll responses is that both sides are not acting competently. They're not doing their job.

Members of Congress can survive politically even when voters think congressional leaders are incompetent.

But perceptions of incompetence can weaken and cripple a president.

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