Monday, March 10, 2014

President Obama's Lack of Negotiation Skill

"Persuasion is the map"-Joseph Wong (Dailykos.com)
The power to bargain in politics is often underestimated. Richard Neustadt , the critically acclaimed political science professor and author of "Presidential Power and the Modern Presidency," offers a perspective on how the office of the Presidency should be handled. He talks about the role the President must play, that of a master negotiator, a true persuasive talent. Rather like acting as the nation's lead partisan in pursuit of adopting their own party agenda, (as Presidents are known as the leaders of their respective parties) he must learn to influence the opinion of the People of the United States and the Congress by means of using the country's largest megaphone. A presidential theory studied across the grand spectrum at all universities, Neustadt's theory has been used both in academia and in practice. Serving as a Presidential adviser to President's Truman, Kennedy and Johnson, Neustadt's theory has been widely accepted by scholars, students and President's alike as we all try to learn and gauge the influence of just how mighty the office of the Presidency just really is.


President Obama, a partisan himself, has refused to negotiate on bills in regards to the debt ceilingfunding government, gun control and defense spending. The Leader of the Free World has put himself out as a party figure, hoping to gain the approval of Americans in the wake of the Ukrainian tug of war.The President's approval rating sits at 38 percent, small enough to convey to not just Americans domestically, but to the international community as well that the President of the United States is unfavorable. Unwilling to broker compromise and act as a pragmatic leader for his country, the President has continuously deflected proposal after proposal of policy that he could possibly believe will hurt his chances of auspice popularity. With his ideology running his decision making, the President has displayed to both Americans and those abroad that the country is in no way ready to lead.

"Resetting" our policy with Russia has made America drop her guard, susceptible to attacks and advantage take over, not here directly by foreign influence but mainly from hostile nations. The President was asked to aid the Syrian rebels in their take back of their nation. He was stopped neither by the American People nor the Congress but by President Putin demanding the U.S. end their talks into going overseas. Whether you agree with the plans or not, the President never really had the universal support of the nation. He went against the wishes of the People in trusting Russia and getting involved with Syria and as a result, the President's actions hurt his ability to bargain, He never convinced the American People that his plans were right and faced the public backlash that ensued. A low approval rating allows for opponents of the President to come out. Attack the President on the cause you disagree with, take the anger and dissatisfaction the People have with leadership and get elected. Hey, after all, that's how President Obama got elected in the first place. (remember the "Attack Bush" game plan of 2008)

So much of the responsibility of the Presidency is on leading the nation, persuading us, the People that that plan is right for the future of the country. However, the President has dropped the ball- so much so that because he hasn't been the persuasive talent he should be- the country has become more polarized contributing to the "do-nothing Congress" and a weak international image. Domestically, this lack of cohesion is shinning brightly in the face of the American People; at the expense of viable economic growth: the Keystone pipeline.

An oil pipeline extending from both Canada through the U.S., the Keystone pipeline has the backing of a potential job creator. The President has held his nose high at the plan, refusing to take a stance on the issue as his lack of bargaining and persuasion has made the President shy away from signing legislation that would push the pipeline's creation. Afraid of hurting his political base and popularity the President is playing a quiet role in the debate, not wanting to upset both supporters and critics. In one corner, supporters have made the pipeline about restoring the American economy. Putting middle class workers back on the job have been calling in all through out the country, mainly by Speaker John Boehner. A majority of Americans support the plan, further complicating the issue the President must deal with in regards to keeping a high popularity.Proponents also argue that the pipeline will move the U.S. closer to becoming more oil independent, further increasing possible economic trade options with potential partners in Europe, both east and west, as well as cheaper domestic prices for home drilled oil.  

Opponents, mainly environmental activists and unions who have continued to support the President through his Presidency, have made sure Obama knew the repercussions about building the pipeline. If the President acts against the wishes of organized labor and "tree lovers," he could lose vital support, dropping more leverage then he already has- and trust me, he doesn't have a lot left. The President has never put his foot down on the issue, or at least offered a comprehensive plan on the subject with bipartisan support. This is where the leadership aspect comes into play. By singing for the pipeline, the majority of Americans would probably look favorably upon the President; maybe even help towards Democrats holding seats in 2014. But without Keystone, the President keeps union and environmentalist support and is seen as a "champion for green."- Plus their money. A failure not to work with both sides has the President looking clueless and without answers. Obama's job is not to push policy so aggressively that the People yell for it to stop, (like Obamacare) but rather negotiation and persuasion, in both Congress and the public eye convincing them of your policy.


Neustadt's idea of the Presidency is not at all radical, but rather intuitive. Lying on the table is a plan that would grow America's middle class, lead one step closer to an energy independent nation and bolster our economic well being. The international world looks at the U.S. less highly now, backing away due to Russian aggression and taking up the failed policy of appeasement. To say all the President's intention's are selfish is false, yet the majority is due to his unqualified holding of the Presidency. Presidents must learn how to negotiate. The Constitution has the responsibilities of Article II written vaguely on purpose, therefore President's must know how to master their way through fighting a stubborn Congress, a demanding public and an intolerable world. President Obama's lack of training in this subject area is apparent- bleeding through the confines of the Keystone pipeline. Due to his paucity of experience at the helm, the President has shown what the damages are towards a country when uneducated voters vote for incompetent candidates.