I feel sorry for Greg Mankiw: I really do. Here he is, living a life that allows him to place articles in the New York Times – which is not a bad place to be – and he publicly mucks it up by publishing a piece that crashes and burns on the first word of the title. The title is “How to Break Bread With the Republicans,” and as advice goes it is… not bad. Absolutely useless, but not bad. But it’s still absolutely useless, primarily because it assumes (as the “How” in the title shows) that the President simply doesn’t know how to reach out to his Republican opposition. Trust me, President Obama knows: he simply doesn’t want to. Obama doesn’t want to because… well, there are multiple reasons.
- He still thinks that he’s right and we’re wrong on the fundamentals of fiscal policy. I know that this sounds absolutely bizarre – the last two years should have made it clear that President Obama’s… unique… blend of pseudo-Keynesism and gormless apathy was not sufficient to fix our sour economy – but it apparently takes more than a shellacking in the House of Representatives to make the President realize that he’s gone down the wrong path.
- His base doesn’t like us. We’re talking about people whose self-image absolutely relies on their opposition – us – being demons who have taken on human form. They are exceedingly unlikely to forgive any accommodation with what they consider to be the forces of Evil.
- He doesn’t like us, either*. And this is the important one: you see, up until 2008 Barack Obama has had himself a bit of a charmed political life. He’s never had to work particularly hard to defeat his policy opponents, and his opposition has generally shriveled up and died upon command (often helped by strategic court decisions). That came to an abrupt end in 2009, when House Republicans not only defied Barack Obama; they spent two years using him and Nancy Pelosi to get the House of Representatives. We weren’t supposed to do that, which is why the President lashed out with the ‘hostage takers’ line that Mankiw sorrowfully condemned.
Can the President find it within himself to take Greg Mankiw’s advice anyway? Beats me: how long does it take a man who has never had to grow up before to go through the process? If the answer is “more than six months”… then probably not, sorry.
Moe Lane (crosspost)