One of the most famous lines about Theodore Roosevelt came from the British ambassador Cecil Spring-Rice, who, after observing TR rolling around on the floor in the Oval Office, told another diplomat: “You must remember that the president is about six.”
One suspects that Spring-Rice would place President Obama as a two-year old. Certainly his tantrums are about as immature. Two days ago he walked out of a meeting with congressional leaders who apparently riled him up by interrupting and refusing to compromise surrender to his terms. According to ABC’s Jake Tapper, Obama said, “Enough is enough. We have to be willing to compromise. It shouldn’t be about positioning and politics, and I’ll see you all tomorrow.” House majority leader Eric Cantor was fingered as the main offender. Perhaps Cantor was merely quoting back Obama’s words to Cantor from January 21, 2009, when Obama dismissed Cantor’s suggestions for a tax cut component of the stimulus bill with the remark that “I won the election, so I think I trump you on that.” Yeah, Barry, I know, payback is a you-know-what.
But then Obama has the cheek to go on 60 Minutes and complain that Republicans won’t even emulate their hero Ronald Reagan, who, after all, compromised on raising taxes:
“Ronald Reagan repeatedly took steps that included revenue in order for him to accomplish some of these larger goals. And the question is, if Ronald Reagan could compromise, why wouldn’t folks who idolize Ronald Reagan be willing to engage in those same kinds of compromises?” Obama said.
Well, now, there is some truth to this, especially about the 1982 tax and spending deal that Reagan later said was the biggest mistake he made in his presidency on domestic policy. The three-dollars-in-spending-cuts part of the deal (in exchange for every dollar in new taxes) never came to pass. In fact, according to one study, the 1982 tax increase actually resulted in $1.14 of new spending for each extra tax dollar. And somehow Obama thinks Republicans want to repeat this deal?
Moreover, Reagan never stormed petulantly out of his meetings with Hill Democrats, though they had several blunt and acrimonious. One of my favorite lines was Reagan saying to Tip O’Neill (after O’Neill had tried to get Reagan to relent on the last year of his tax cut in exchange for larger domestic spending cuts), “You can get me to crap a pineapple, but you can’t get me to crap a cactus.”
I go into considerable detail about the 1982 budget deal in chapter 5 of The Age of Reagan (which in retrospect shows Reagan had much more patience, foresight, bargaining skill, and statesmanship than Obama is showing), but suffice it to say this episode is an anti-precedent for Obama. Not that you would expect him to have any appreciation for this. Increasingly it is apparent that Obama is not the second-coming of FDR, as he hoped, but the second-coming of Woodrow Wilson (Jimmy Carter also fits for multiple reasons), chiefly his arrogance toward Congress and condescension of the American people. I think it was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said of FDR that he had “a second-rate intellect, but a first-rate temperament.” With Obama, we were supposed to be getting both a first-rate intellect to go with a first-rate temperament, but it is increasingly obvious that Obama has neither. Jennifer Rubin dilates this point more fully in her Washington Post blog yesterday.