What President Obama didn’t Have

President Obama was asked recently if he was going to be able to get anything of substance done over the remainder of his time in office (the phrase was something like “Do you have any juice left?”). The President replied that he couldn’t force Republicans to “behave.”

And Democrats said, “You tell ’em, Mr. President! They’re a bunch of jerks!” (my paraphrase)

And Republicans said, “‘Behave?’ Does he think of us like children? Here’s more proof of his arrogance.” (my paraphrase)

Which side is right? Who cares–that’s the wrong question. The reporter asked the right one–is the President going to do some other big thing that is on his wish list?

And the answer is…probably not.

The problem that the President is dealing with is that he lacks experience working with the opposition party. Over the last 50 years, America has elected a bunch of ex-governors to run the White House, and they all had experience working with difficult legislatures. The only exceptions, LBJ, Ford, and Bush I, all had extensive time working in Washington, figuring out how to get things done. This didn’t make them all successful, but it didn’t hurt.

Supporters of the President point out that Republicans control the House, and in the Senate it takes 60% of the membership to overcome a filibuster and make things happen. It wasn’t always that way-

It used to take 75% to end a filibuster.

Somehow, though, our Presidents figured out how to get things done.

President Obama wasn’t a governor, and he only spent two years in Washington before he started running for President. And in his first two years he had a Democratic majority in the House and a super majority in the Senate. For the last two and a half years, though, the President has had to do something he had never done before–work with both parties to achieve his agenda.

The President’s supporters will point out that Republicans don’t like the President and haven’t been easy to work with, but Republicans didn’t like Clinton either. And the Democrats were pretty rough on W. and Reagan, too. But these 3 guys, all former governors, figured out how to compromise enough to get some of the things done that were important to them.

President Obama lacks experience with this, but if he wants to accomplish something important to himself, he is going to have to give Republicans, and their voters, something they want.