Can President Obama Negotiate with the Republicans?

Right From the Start

Right From the Start

Almost immediately after witnessing the crushing defeat suffered by President Barack Obama in last week’s congressional elections, the political pundits began to ask how Mr. Obama might bargain with the newly elected Republican majority in both houses of Congress. Let me answer that. He won’t. He cannot. He simply doesn’t know how.

Despite Mr. Obama’s almost encyclopedic knowledge of facts on a variety of issues, he lacks the ability to convert that reservoir of data into workable solutions.

To illustrate the point let me begin with an anecdote. When I was in law school we had one test per subject per semester. An entire semesters work (and your likelihood of continuing in law school) hinged on that two to three hour test. The tests usually involved a convoluted statement of facts and conflicts followed by a question or questions relating to your advice to a would-be client.

At the conclusion of each test law students would gather in the break room and “dead horse” the exam. One student routinely asked, “How many pages did you get (write) on that question?” I typed my exams and I generally wrote seven, eight or nine pages. He would then pronounce that he wrote thirty or more pages.

At first I was astounded and fearful that I had missed something. However, it soon became apparent that as each exam unfolded he would regurgitate, in summary form, virtually the entire body of law that we had studied during that semester. He had a prodigious memory and absorbed and returned data at the drop of the hat. Somewhere in those thirty plus pages was the appropriate law but it was crowded by irrelevant and extraneous, albeit correct, recitations of other elements of that body of law. It would be comparable to my wife asking me what I would like for dinner and me responding not only about the food but detailing the dinnerware, crystal, cutlery and linens and appropriate attire for the two of us. In the end, you were overwhelmed by more information than you needed but left wanting a relevant answer.

And that is Mr. Obama.

In March of 2011 I wrote a column entitled Calling Brilliance into Question. In that column I noted of Mr. Obama:

“. . . While at Columbia Obama like other students wrote a senior thesis. His was on nuclear disarmament of the West and he has refused to allow the release of it because it might appear to be naïve. Other articles he wrote during his college years on disarmament were simply regurgitation of far left orthodoxy on unilateral disarmament – hardly an indication of original or critical thinking.

“President Obama was the head of Harvard Law Review. The titles of president, leader or editor-in-chief are used interchangeably. Traditionally, the position has been in recognition of academic achievement – the top student at the end of the junior year becomes the editor-in-chief for the senior year. Since 1887 until 1970, inclusion on Harvard Law Review was based purely on academic achievement. After 1970 half of the members were chosen for academic performance and half were chosen by the students. Barack Obama was part of the latter category – chosen for popularity rather than achievement. The position of editor-in-chief is chosen by the faculty.

“The editor-in-chief of Harvard Law Review has two main responsibilities. The first is to “manage” the monthly production of the Review (assisted ably by a professional staff) and to publish the premier scholarly law review article for the academic year. No such article was published by Pres. Obama. In fact, the only article published by Obama during his years at Harvard Law School was in support of abortion on demand and can best be described as the normal screed of far left orthodoxy lacking any indication of original or critical thinking.

Absorption, retention and recitation of information are traits highly valued by academia. It might suggest why Mr. Obama fared well in college and gravitated toward teaching in Illinois. But such traits do not necessarily translate into problem solving. For instance, when I was in law school, one of my professors in contracts lectured us repeatedly about the importance of words. He went on to detail important cases in which the minutiae of language became the critical element in a decision. He emphasized the importance of the rules of contractual interpretation and particularly those relating to the consistency of language. Several years after I graduated, he was hired by Montana’s Constitutional Convention to provide drafting expertise. But the new constitution vetted by him is a remarkable work of vague phrases and inconsistent language that has given rise to forty years of litigation over what the framers intended. So much for academic brilliance translating into practical detail.

Critical thinking and problem solving are traits highly valued in private practice and the demonstrable lack of such skills might suggest why Mr. Obama was neither recruited nor offered positions in the country’s major law firms – offers that are uniformly made to the top students from Harvard. It might also suggest why Mr. Obama has steadfastly refused to submit his social initiatives to the Congress in the form of specific legislation.

Even with his singular legislative achievement – Obamacare – Mr. Obama announced his preference for a universal healthcare system. That is neither a new or unique concept but one that has been advocated by liberals for generations. But when it came to a specific proposal, Mr. Obama demurred and left the drafting to Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Harry Reid (D-NV). Mr. Obama has routinely pronounced that anyone, Republican and Democrat alike, should bring their proposals to implement his litany of liberal causes to him but has failed to provide his own specific proposals. Not for universal healthcare, not for immigration reform, not for tax reform, not for anything.

And that is precisely because Mr. Obama lacks the critical thinking skills necessary to craft a solution to a complex problem. So lacking is he in that area that he is distrustful of other’s solutions – particularly those by others he may perceive to be his opponents – because he cannot himself validate those solutions. He is stuck espousing causes and solutions that have been the hallmark of big government liberalism for ages and using “fairness” rather than facts to support them.

Mr. Obama is a stranger to most of the members of Congress. He steadfastly refuses to engage with them. It could be that his reticence is because Congress is the epitome of debate and compromise. The dealmakers of Congress are those who can deconstruct a problem into its solvable parts, prioritize those parts and find a solution within competing ideas. That is the nature of critical thinking necessary for leadership. Those are skills that Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the incoming Senate Majority Leader, and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) have demonstrated in corralling the disparate ambitions of members of Congress into a relatively united front. And that is what is lacking in Mr. Obama.

And that is what foretells that there will not be solutions to the critical issues facing the country. And, in fact, it foretells that there will be few meetings between Mr. Obama and the Republican congressional leaders because Mr. Obama’s ego cannot accept being outclassed by the very people he disdains.

Mr. Obama cannot lead at this critical time for our nation because he lacks the fundamental skills and intellectual capabilities. He should resign.

Please Mr. Obama, leave – and take Joe with you.