It is ironic in the extreme that the man elected on a promise to reform the way things work inside the Beltway should instead preside over the conversion of a nickname for the nation's capital to a hardened term of derision. In the process, he has imperiled Democratic electoral prospects.
When President Obama pledged to rework American politics, he was almost certainly aware, as his supporters of a certain age were not, of the elemental structure of U.S. electoral politic. He would have been well advised to have reviewed how President Ronald Reagan managed to be so productive with a House of Representatives in opposition hands. Mr. Reagan rolled up his sleeves, sat down with Speaker Tip O'Neill, a crafty and sharply partisan Democrat, and did the people's business.
It is a measure of Mr. Obama's failure that he prefers a pen to a pow-wow with Speaker John Boehner, no matter how trying the palaver. If he is reluctant to follow a Republican model, he should study how President Clinton adopted the coloration of the electorate following the midterm debacle of 1994 and was in no way impeded by a doctrinaire obeisance to the liberal catechism. Mr. Clinton put political survival before ritual political suicide by accepting staples of the Republican agenda (welfare reform, balanced budget and NAFTA). Ironically, his success as president was largely built on the GOP playbook.