On ‘The Education of a President’

The headline from Peter Baker's New York Times Magazine piece, out this Sunday, is President Obama's concession that "there's no such thing as shovel-ready projects," but there is so much more to learn from "The Education of a President."

In the piece, those close to the president catalog how much they have learned about the limits of Washington, the need to play by the same old rules and the futility of trying to change them.
 
Obama tells Baker he allowed himself to look too much like the "same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat," and that perhaps he should have allowed Republicans the tax cuts they insisted on in the stimulus package — instead of his own — so that it would have appeared bipartisan.

But ultimately he blames the rejection of his policies by the public on his good intentions, which sounds as if he still knows what is right, even if a majority of Americans do not.

"We probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration — and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top — that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular," he says.

Aides admit Obama frustrates them by delaying key decisions, and Baker points out that for all his talk about bipartisanship, he has not fulfilled his pledge, made in his State of the Union address, to meet monthly with leaders of both parties.
 
It is clear from the article that Obama is keeping his eye on the prize and is turning already to his campaign for reelection in 2012.

Obama admits to consulting "The Clinton Tapes" and studying up on former President Bill Clinton's 1994 midterm losses and implies that since unemployment was far lower then, he and the Democrats will surely pay for how high it is now. "I don't think anybody would suggest that Bill Clinton wasn't a good communicator or was somebody who couldn't connect with the American people or didn't show empathy," he says.

The president and his staff express no regrets to Baker about the unpopular Obama agenda, but they say the days of heavy legislative lifting are behind them for now. Obama plans instead to try and solidify his accomplishments by fighting off repeals of healthcare and the challenges the law is facing in the courts. He insists he will delve back into immigration reform, which could be a must to energize Latino voters for 2012, but he will choose his fights with Congress. "Even if I had the exact same Congress, even if we don't lose a seat in the Senate and we don't lose a seat in the House, I think the rhythms of the next two years would inevitably be different from the rhythms of the first two years," he says.

No matter what happens on Nov. 2, the era of big bills is over. For a while, anyway. 
 

WHY AREN'T DEMS TALKING ABOUT TAX CUTS?
Ask A.B. returns Wednesday, Oct. 20. Please join my weekly video Q&A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.

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