Michael Gerson: President Obama's biggest accomplishment also a liability

By Michael Gerson

Washington Post

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Obama tends to overestimate his own negotiating skills with Congress, which are poor — also displayed in his failed attempt to achieve a grand budget compromise in 2011. When the ideological stakes are highest, Obama jettisons bipartisanship with little thought or regret. He was perfectly willing to reorganize one-sixth of the economy on a party-line vote. He has employed tactics that ensure future partisan bitterness. His persuasive powers on the issue of health care turned out to be limited. The more he spoke, the less public support he found. But he proved incapable of creative ideological readjustment.

Obama's largest achievement turned out to be a self-indictment. He has not shown the leadership skills or the inclination to create consensus around large issues. The problem is that large issues — avoiding the fiscal cliff, reforming the tax code, making entitlement commitments more sustainable — are coming. Either Obama will have to become an entirely different type of leader — or America needs a new one.

Michael Gerson's email address is michaelgerson@washpost.com.

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