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Interesting and counterintuitive piece by Ezra Klein in the New Yorker. He says that not only is the Presidential bully pulpit ineffective, but it is actually counterproductive. Liberals have given Obama a hard time these last few years for not molding public opinion and getting his way like FDR alleged did. They say Obama should have led the way with speeches, town halls and an all-out PR campaign in order to get his agenda passed. Would this have worked? According to Klein, many political battles are zero-sum games, where if one side is perceived to win then the other side loses. This explains how an issue with bipartisan support can become so polarized. A few examples include: a mandate in universal health care coverage, a partial privatization of Social Security (Clinton considered this idea before Bush), manned travel to Mars and a payroll tax cut. If an idea is seen to become a President's then the other side immediately has an incentive to oppose and defeat it.

Perhaps this gives credence to Obama's leading from behind. If an idea becomes his or America's then it would immediately be opposed by Republicans or foreign political figures who benefit electorally by opposing whatever the Great Satan (the US) wants.

Instead of stumping for what he really wants, perhaps Obama should publicly state that he is ambivalent about some bill that contains much of what he wants. He may not get immediate satisfaction (or credit) but if he can accomplish more this way (and claim credit later?) then he should avoid stumping for specifics and stick to bipartisan issues.