After watching the President for the past 26 months I have determined he has two negotiating positions: Arrogant and petulant.
When he had majorities in both the House and Senate he was arrogant. Shortly after having been inaugurated Obama held a meeting with Congressional leaders on the subject of the stimulus package. According to a piece in the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire from January 23, 2009 - a full three days into his term:
"Challenged by Senate Republican whip John Kyl (R-Az) over the contents of the package, the new president, according to participants, replied: 'I won.'"
That's the Presidential equivalent of "nanny-nanny-boo-boo."
Since his policies caused the voting public to rise up in electoral revolt last November tossing Nancy Pelosi out of the Speaker's chair and reducing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's majority to a tissue paper thin 53-47, Obama has taken a new tack: Petulance.
During the press conference to which Halperin was referring, Obama compared the Congressional Republicans to grammar school students - specifically his daughters - who leave their homework to the last minute.
Earlier this week he repeated his childish attempts to diminish House and Senate Republicans by telling them to "tear off the Band-Aid" and "eat our peas" in their discussions over increasing the debt limit.
Warren Buffett wheeled onto the business channels to help out his pal Obama by saying, about 12 times, "We raised the debt ceiling seven times during the Bush Administration," but now, according to CNBC "the Republican-controlled Congress is 'trying to use the incentive now that we're going to blow your brains out, America, in terms of your debt worthiness over time.'"
This is known in the finger-pointing-name-calling business as sophistry.
It would be like someone having said, in 1865, that Lincoln was wrong because "Fifteen previous Presidents have put up with slavery, but suddenly it's a cause to go to war."
I understand that Warren Buffet is one of the richest men in the world while I am the richest person in my car when I'm driving alone, but that doesn't alter the fact he is a Democrat and has been an Obama guy from the start which is rarely pointed out by the fawning business reporters who sit, awestruck, at his feet.
On both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue the parties are wasting time arguing over spending and taxes because they are attempting to treat the symptoms, not the cause.
Everyone is talking about jobs and tax rates; government spending and entitlements. All symptoms. No one is talking about the cause of the problem: The economy is creaking along barely above water, businesses are frightened, and Americans are uncomfortable buying things because they aren't sure they will have a job next month.
Jim Glassman, who is the executive director of the George W. Bush Institute, got it right the other day when he made the case that growing the economy would significantly reduce unemployment (and unemployment benefits) thus increasing tax revenues without increasing tax rates.
Glassman told me that if the U.S. economy grows by just four percent per year starting in 2017 then within five years the debt will be reduced by $3.7 trillion, using Congressional Budget Office data.
That $3.7 trillion seems within shouting distance of the $4 trillion number Speaker Boehner and President Obama were talking about over this past weekend.
Rather than chiding the Congress and going for cheap laughs among a press corps held hostage in the briefing room (you don't laugh at the Presidential jokes, you don't get called on next time), President Obama should be showing some leadership by utilizing the millions of very smart people in the Executive Branch to figure out how to get this economy moving again.
Otherwise, Halperin will have been correct: The President is acting, not like a Barack, but like a Richard.