President Obama has not negotiated a single win-win middle ground legislative compromise with the other political party. I fear he may not know how to do so or be unwilling to do so because he sees all his dealings with Congressional Republicans as pure zero-sum.

The scary part about model 3 is that the President might unwittingly kill an agreement, further inflame a nasty partisan blame game, and trigger a recession even though in this model that’s not the outcome he wants. In model 3 a different negotiator (say, Mr. Bowles) could find a middle ground that could pass both the House and Senate, but President Obama cannot or will not. Some combination of legislative inexperience, a distaste for interacting with Congress, and a naturally combative rather than cooperative temperament may hobble the President’s ability to close deals with those who have different policy priorities. And if model 3 is correct, in the next few weeks it could all go sideways because we have a President who doesn’t know how to or isn’t willing to negotiate.

It may be impossible for us to know which of these models applies to President Obama. I know this is an important question, and that a clear answer would not only allow us to analyze the current negotiation, but would increase the ability of other elected policymakers to deal effectively with the President over the next four years.