On Capitol Hill, the normal practice in seeking a compromise is to woo the other party and recruit prominent allies. Mr. Bush lined up the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy as his chief Democratic ally to pass the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. Mr. Clinton and Trent Lott, then Senate majority leader, agreed on a balanced-budget bill in 1997. Reagan, facing a lopsided Democratic House majority in 1981, drummed up enough conservative and moderate Democrats to enact his tax and spending bills.
Mr. Obama has turned this practice on its head. He is strikingly un-conciliatory. While his aides negotiated in recent weeks, he attacked Republicans in stump speeches—well after the end of his election campaign. He dismissed their pleas for spending cuts and claimed that their chief interest was in helping the rich avoid higher taxes. With the talks at a critical stage last weekend, he staged a White House event at which he mocked Republicans for thinking he might forgo additional tax increases for millionaires and “companies with a lot of lobbyists” in 2013…
This is a bigger problem than Mr. Obama may imagine. The most important issues—the debt ceiling, entitlement reform, tax reform, government spending, the $110 billion sequester—now must be dealt with in an atmosphere that is hardly conducive to bipartisanship and compromise.
The essence of bipartisan deals is win-win: Both sides are satisfied, even if not elated. Mr. Obama’s approach is that he alone gets to win. The approach worked, more or less, on the fiscal-cliff deal, but it won’t produce the larger bipartisan agreements that Mr. Obama now needs. And he’ll miss the opportunities that other presidents seized, to their own benefit and the country’s.