Obama's slow learning curve

In January 2010, in a Time magazine interview in which he was asked about the setbacks to his ambitious attempt to reach a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, he remarked, “I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that.”

The problem, the president acknowledged, was that he and his team had failed to understand the domestic challenges faced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: “I think it is absolutely true that what we did this year didn’t produce the kind of breakthrough that we wanted, and if we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high.”

In June 2011, Obama again acknowledged that he had based a defining policy — the $830 billion stimulus package that he sold to the nation in the first month of his presidency as designed to take advantage of “shovel-ready” jobs — on false expectations. With unemployment at 9.1 percent and in the 27th consecutive month in which it had not fallen below 8.9 percent, he told his Jobs and Competitiveness Council meeting in Durham, N.C., that “shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected.”

On Nov. 4 of this year — five weeks after the calamitous online launch of the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces, almost five years into his presidency and less than two weeks before he would reveal that the loss of insurance coverage by millions of Americans taught him that buying coverage was complicated — Obama said to the Affordable Care Act Coalition Partners and Supporters in Washington, D.C., “Now, let’s face it, a lot of us didn’t realize that passing the law was the easy part.”