He's the biggest celebrity in the world -- but he doesn't know how to legislate

Inspiration is one thing, persuasion another. He created the impression on the campaign trail that he was familiar with major issues and readily ticked off his positions on them. But he has not proved so good at legislating.

One reason perhaps is that he has had little practice. He served as a legislator for a dozen years before becoming president, but was only rarely an active one. He spent one of his eight years as an Illinois state senator running unsuccessfully for Congress and two of them running successfully for U.S. senator. He spent two of his years in the U.S. Senate running for president. During all of his seven non-campaign years as a legislator, he was in the minority party.

In other words, he’s never done much work putting legislation together — especially legislation that channels vast flows of money and affects the workings of parts of the economy that deeply affect people’s lives. This lack of experience is starting to show. On the major legislation considered this year — the stimulus, cap-and-trade, health care — the Obama White House has done little or nothing to set down markers, to provide guidance, to establish boundaries and no-go areas.