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How Obama Can Win Friends and Influence People

And, finally, there was the moment in the interview when Obama observed: “You know, we have a political culture that has built up over time that has gotten more and more polarized.” He said that he had hoped “that the urgency of the moment would allow us to join together and make common cause.” Then he blamed the impasse on “a strategic decision that was made on the side of the opposition.”

Mr. President, that’s not exactly how you make friends and influence people. If you want to blame the polarization in Washington for not getting more done or not getting your message out, then it might be a good idea to avoid saying and doing things that only serve to make the air more polarized.

The one thing Obama got right was when he told Stephanopoulos that he didn’t believe the president or members of Congress can “simply say we're going to stand pat and avoid big problems because they're just too hard politically.”

Absolutely. We send men and women to Washington to represent us, to show leadership, and to tackle hard issues that might earn them a one-way ticket home. We don’t send them to sit on committees, to gorge on perks, and to feel important.

All the more reason that, when you have a seismic event like the recent Massachusetts election, people in both parties should be able to learn the proper lessons from it. In this case, it’s hugely significant that more than 20 percent of Scott Brown’s votes came from Democrats who voted for Obama. There might be a little buyer’s remorse there, or a concern on the part of many that the person they thought they were voting for isn’t the same person now leading the country. Or it may be that, as political strategist Dick Morris put it, the people of Massachusetts were sending a message about the importance of checks and balances. They might still support many parts of Obama’s agenda, but the idea of one-party rule (even when it’s their party) scares the daylights out of them -- and with good reason.

Whatever the lessons from the Massachusetts Senate race, and there are probably several to be drawn, they won’t do the White House any good unless the man at the top starts being honest with himself -- and the rest of us -- about what he is doing wrong and commits himself to doing better. Moving to the center and reaching out to key Republicans would be a good start.

A Buddhist proverb dictates, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Granted, it was only one interview. But from the sound of it, President Obama isn’t ready.