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But Mr. Obama, the temporary custodian of the biggest bully pulpit in the world, does just the opposite. Before negotiations even began, he drew a line in the sand: This won’t go anywhere unless I get this. That’s exactly the opposite of how real men negotiate. He pays lip service to the notion of compromise — while declaring that on the most contentious issues, he will never compromise.

His first proposal out of the gate was a joke. Mr. McConnell literally laughed in Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner’s face when he laid out the president’s plan (and who sends a boy to do a man’s job?). Mr. Obama doubled his demand on tax hikes, from $800 billion to $1.6 trillion. He called for another $50 billion “stimulus,” and then added a deal-killer: The president seeks a new, unilateral — and permanent — power to raise debt limit. No longer will Congress hold the purse strings: Oh, forget about the Constitution, the president said, gimme the power, forever.

The ham-handed negotiation technique brings to mind Steve Martin’s demands to free some imaginary hostages, whom he’ll blow up “unless, of course, I get my three demands — a hundred thousand in cash, a getaway car and I want the letter ‘M’ stricken from the English language. See, you have to make one crazy demand, that way, if you get caught, you can plead insanity. Ha. Getaway car.”

So far, all Mr. Obama has done is demand the letter “M” be stricken from the language. And his getaway car is nowhere in sight.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at