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Stubbornness as Governance

A president incapable of pivoting.

Jul 21, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 42 • By FRED BARNES
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Yet through all this, he’s clung to building more roads and bridges as his policy for boosting economic growth and jobs. (His stimulus in 2009 mostly stimulated Democratic interest groups.) Here’s Obama in Denver last week: “It used to be that Republicans, Democrats, everybody said, you know what, America, it’s a good thing when we build roads and bridges and get a smart grid to transmit energy—all those things are good for business, good for workers, it helps—now they can’t seem to pass a bill just to fund basic projects that we know are good for our economy.”

Infrastructure projects have never done much for the economy. What’s needed are tax incentives for business investment in growth and jobs. Obama would rather raise business taxes than reduce them. If he could, he’d increase taxes on companies with foreign profits and use the revenue to bail out the highway trust fund. That’s a nonstarter in Congress. Still, he’s sticking with his policy.

Obama boasts that America has become “more energy independent” on his watch. And it’s true. But it’s not because of his policy of lavishly subsidizing wind and solar energy—quite the contrary. Increased oil and natural gas production, which he’s tried to thwart, are responsible. If he opened federal lands to oil and gas production, we’d have a bigger energy boom. But that would necessitate a presidential change of mind. So no dice.

On immigration, Obama backs an all-or-nothing policy. It’s either “comprehensive” reform or no deal. Chances are he’ll get nothing. “I want to work with Democrats and Republicans,” he said in Minneapolis last week. But he can’t do so while attacking them.

Why doesn’t the president summon Republicans to negotiate a deal on immigration or other issues? The problem is that negotiations, if all goes well, lead to compromise. And that’s what Obama doesn’t want. Better to do as much as he can by executive order. That way he can get exactly what he wants—without changing his mind.

Fred Barnes is an executive editor at The Weekly Standard.

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