Debt Crisis Shows Obama Lacks Presidential Skills

Obama's inability to solve the debt ceiling crisis shows that his law professor background did not prepare him for the presidency.


As the negotiations and the vote-getting on raising the debt ceiling have dragged on these last two weeks, it's became clear that President Obama really is not a good negotiator. Several times, just as a deal seemed imminent, the discussions have collapsed—and very publicly. There were leaks from the administration, he-said-she-said accounts from both sides, angry White House press conferences—just a "parade of horribles," as lawyers would call it. The result is a rising tide of public disgust and frustration. Not only has he lost bipartisan support in both the House or the Senate, his lack of ability to persuade people to join his cause has cost President Obama the vital center of the electorate.

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According to yesterday's Pew Research national survey, with results collected just this week, only 31 percent of independent voters want to see Obama re-elected, down from 42 percent in May. Two months ago, Obama held a 7 point lead among independent registered voters two months ago, but independent support has swung 15 points the other way, giving an 8 point advantage to a generic Republican. "This is consistent with a drop in Obama's approval among all independents. Currently, a majority (54 percent) disapprove of Obama's performance for the first time in his presidency," according to Pew. [Check out our editorial cartoons on President Obama.]

Maybe it's because Hillary Clinton's "three in the morning" ad was right—maybe he just doesn't have the experience to be president. Of the top 100 jobs that would qualify one to be president, being a law professor isn't one of them. A plumber would be better qualified than a law professor. Seriously—a plumber is a problem solver who has to keep customers happy. A used car salesman knows how to close a deal. A UPS deliveryman knows how to meet a deadline. A diplomat knows how to be, well, diplomatic. Meaning he doesn't lecture people about "eating their peas" when he needs them to jump on board. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

Think about some of our former presidents and their qualifications for the job. Bill Clinton had been a governor, a job that involves being an executive decision-maker. Ronald Reagan had headed the Screen Actors Guild and worked for General Electric, in addition to being governor. President Bush 41 had served as ambassador to the U.N., liaison to Communist China, head of the RNC during Watergate, director of the CIA during its most difficult years, and had even served as a freshman Republican in a Democratic Congress. Harry Truman had run a men's clothing store that failed in a recession and narrowly escaped bankruptcy—certainly something that would have prepared him for the job today. Surely some of them got elected for reasons other than their qualifications—after all, the desire for economic or political change can be a powerful force among voters, no matter who is running— but certainly some presidents' past experiences helped them once they got in office. [See a photo gallery of Ronald Reagan.]

Peggy Noonan writes today that "the secret of Mr. Obama is that he isn't really very good at politics, and he isn't good at politics because he doesn't really get people."  I think that's right. Being a plumber or a used car salesman—or a union organizer or a men's clothing store owner or the liaison to Communist China—requires you to know how to deal with people and how to negotiate in good faith. Being a law professor doesn't.

  • See a slide show of who's in and out for the GOP in 2012.
  • See a slide show of 10 things Obama can learn from Clinton.
  • See a collection of political cartoons on the budget and deficit.