Published for The Washington Post, December 4, 2012

The endorsement of a continental nation being a powerful stimulant, all victorious presidents face the temptation of overreach.

Following his reelection in 2004, President George W. Bush undertook 60 stops in 60 days to sell the nation on Social Security reform. America remained unsold. In 1992, President Bill Clinton attempted and failed to reorganize the country’s health-care system — then the Democratic Party promptly lost both the House and Senate for the first time in four decades. “The fundamental political mistake committed by Bill Clinton and his aides,” argue political scientists Lawrence Jacobs and Robert Shapiro, “was in grossly overestimating the capacity of a president to ‘win’ public opinion and to use public support as leverage to overcome known political obstacles.”

President Obama, prone to overestimate his own capacity at communication, is now on the verge of serious overreach in two areas:

First, his opening budget bid — a repackaging of his previous budget, which got precisely zero votes in Congress — was a calculated insult. Obama proposed spending reductions of $60 billion a year — about 1.6 percent of a $3.8 trillion budget. He asked Congress to cede its control over the debt limit. And then he undertook a clumsy campaign swing, accusing Republicans of offering a “lump of coal” and a “Scrooge Christmas.” It was a policy joke, wrapped in a taunt, delivered with a puerile touch.

Full post here 


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