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A Virtual Conversation With Obama on the Elections

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Good to see you again, Mr. President.

It's been a long time. When better to renew our ongoing (virtual) conversation than following the elections?

Exactly. So what are your thoughts on the outcome?

Well, as I said in my day-after press conference, we got "shellacked." I think I didn't communicate well, and I take full responsibility for that. It's a chastening, almost humbling, experience.

"Shellacked"? Wouldn't "crushed" or "clobbered" or "eviscerated" be a better word for the most significant midterm turnaround in more than half a century? Or "killed"?

That's the trouble with you conservatives. You're so ungentle and immoderate. For a mere failure of communication you use such harsh, extreme, in-your-face rhetoric.

Sir, in all sincerity, it's simply the candor you say you respect. The voters didn't tag you and the Democrats for a failure of communication. They ripped you for failures of program and policy. The Democrats didn't lose six Senate seats, more than 60 House seats, eight governorships, and at least 500 seats in state legislatures because of bad communication.

It was a lack of effective communication and education. The voters were ignorant of the facts. They were confused and misled by Secretary of State Clinton's "vast right-wing conspiracy" in the media -- particularly Fox News. That's my line and I'm sticking to it.

Sir, across the vast American heartland, you and the Democrats lost at the polls because you lost the middle -- the independents. They broke bigtime for teapartiers and Republicans -- moderates and conservatives all. The center that flirted with your side two years ago proved fickle. It simply doesn't want to dance anymore.

My policies are moderate, centrist, and mainstream. What the voters insufficiently understood was that two years ago we were tasked with cleaning up the Republican stable, where my predecessor, George W. Bush, was stable master, and the Republicans have refused to help us Democrats -- primarily me -- in a bipartisan fashion.

In just two years, with heavy Democratic majorities in both houses, you and your ideological clique moved the federal-spending share of gross domestic product (GDP) from 21 percent (where it had stood for decades) to 25 percent.

Bush turned the Clinton surplus into a persistent deficit.

You also set the national debt on a path toward 90 percent of GDP -- from 40 percent. And you force-fed the citizenry a socialized medicine plan it found unpopular when you signed it -- its unpopularity increasing since then with every passing day.

The Republicans nationalized the elections.

Yes, indeed. That's why so many of the Democrats for whom you campaigned fared so poorly. As one newspaper headline put it -- referring to you: "He Came, He Talked, They Lost."

I look forward to working with the Republicans --

The same Republicans you said during the campaign could go along for the ride but would have to sit in the back of the bus?

There you go again. I didn't say "sit in the back of the bus." I said "sit in back."

OK. But now they may be in the driver's seat.

I am still President of the United States. They cannot pass into law any legislation that I will not sign.

And, sir, you cannot spend any money they will not appropriate. The dynamic has changed. "Bipartisanship" no longer means Republicans and conservatives signing on to your progressivist notions. No longer is it your narrative alone. You will have to work with the Republicans -- sign on to some of their key positions -- if you want to get anything done. And the ticked-off teapartiers won't abide much of the traditional Republican caving-in.

Well, at least Harry Reid won. I'll still have him in the Senate....

And you'll still have Democratic National Chairman Tim Kaine and, in the House, Nancy Pelosi. Both of them should have the grace to go.

And I've still got some key governorships -- notably in New York and California. I'm especially pleased with the election of Jerry Brown as California's governor again. He is my kind of Democrat.

Governor Moonbeam? Right on. Shortly before the election, he said this: "I'm ready. I now have a wife. I come home at night, and I don't try to close down all the bars in Sacramento like I used to when I was last governor of California....While I'm really into this politics thing, I still carry with me my sense of, kind of, that missionary zeal to transform the world, and that's always been a part of what I do."

I can relate to him. He's a transformative sort of guy -- like me.

Jerry Brown is not transformative but a 72 year-old hippie not even those wacky Californians may deserve. And speaking of change, sir, the 2010 election outcome likely altered -- dramatically -- the picture for you for 2012.

But I wasn't on the ballot and the 2010 results haven't transformed anything about me. I'm still the same principled progressive. I still want improved infrastructure, better education for our kids, and clean air. I still want card-check and an end to don't-ask-don't-tell. I still want more spending and higher taxes on the rich. I still want higher capital-gains taxes, even if they result in lower federal revenues. I still want an Afghan exit plan. I still want to build on my ObamaCare legacy.

A lot of wants. But on the contrary, the 2010 elections probably did transform you -- or rather your 2012 re-election prospects.

How? Into what?

Into toast.

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