A week after his State of the Union address, political observers are still trying to figure out what President Obama's game is. That's because rhetorically and substantively, he seems to be in another world.
In his State of the Union address, Obama refused to even take note of the
And Obama's policy agenda -- "free" community college, tax hikes, mandatory sick leave -- failed to take into account that it was dead-before-arrival in this
Three explanations dominate speculation about what Obama is up to. The first is that he's trying to lay the groundwork for his successor, presumptive nominee
But there's a fourth interpretation: Obama can't leave his comfort zone. No president since
Lord Darlington responds, "A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."
To which Graham replies, "And a sentimentalist, my dear Darlington, is a man who sees an absurd value in everything, and doesn't know the market place of any single thing."
The phrasing is a bit archaic to the modern ear, but the point is terribly relevant as Obama heads into the home stretch of his presidency. Obama is an ideological sentimentalist; he's great at identifying things of value, terrible at assessing the costs his esteem brings with it.
He likes community colleges. And he should; they do very important work. But his idea to subsidize them via an expanded federal program is blindingly oblivious to the costs -- fiscal and institutional -- it would impose, particularly given the fact that, as Reihan Salam notes at National Review Online, "net tuition and fees were $0 for [community college] students from households earning
But such details don't matter when weighed against the idea of being in favor of "free" community college.
Over the weekend, the same president who boasted about increased oil and gas production days earlier in the State of the Union address -- despite doing nothing to make that possible -- announced he wants to designate part of the
A president who believed in negotiating might trade a ban on offshore arctic drilling for opening up ANWR, which would be much safer. He might also consult with
If Obama believed in negotiating, he would have used the Keystone pipeline as a bargaining chip. He would trade the higher taxes he (always) wants for tax reform. He would acknowledge that the
But negotiating requires acknowledging that people who disagree with you have a legitimate point of view. And such concessions to reality would take Obama out of his comfort zone. And anything outside of that is a no-go zone for this president.