Obama is playing a new game

Certainly in the past few weeks he’s become more aggressive and gameful. A crisis is coming—a series of crises actually, with more ceilings and the threat of a government shutdown—and he is not engaging or taking ownership. The “We’re not speaking” thing with Congress is more amazing and historic than we appreciate. Only a president can stop that kind of thing, and he doesn’t. He doesn’t even seem to think he owes the speaker of the House—the highest elected official of a party representing roughly half the country—even the appearance of laying down his arms for a moment and holding serious talks. He journeys into America making speeches, he goes on TV but only for interviews the White House is confident will be soft. …

But here’s what seems really new. Past presidents, certainly since Ronald Reagan, went over the heads of the media to win over the people, to get them to contact Congress and push Congress to deal. Fine, and fair enough. But Mr. Obama goes to the people to get them to enhance his position by hating Republicans. He’s playing only to the polls, not to Congress, not to get the other side to the bargaining table. He doesn’t even like the bargaining table. He doesn’t like bargaining.

Where does that get us? We are in new territory. There is a strange kind of nihilism in the president’s approach, it’s a closed, self-referential loop. And it’s guaranteed to keep agreement from happening.

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