Newt Gingrich Explains Why Obama Can't Close a Deal

Photograph by Nathan Perkel for Bloomberg Businessweek

For this week’s special “How To Issue” of Bloomberg Businessweek, I interviewed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on “How to Negotiate With a Democratic President.” Gingrich was the last Republican leader to strike a balanced budget deal with a Democratic president (Bill Clinton, in 1996). So I thought his experience might shed some light on how the current House Speaker, John Boehner, and President Obama could hammer out a deal of their own.

Gingrich didn’t necessarily agree. Or rather, he doesn’t think they can strike a deal. But I thought his comparison between the two Democratic presidents, Clinton and Obama, was noteworthy and worth highlighting anyway—even if you don’t agree with his caustic assessment of Obama. Gingrich’s full riff can be found here (and also comes in snazzily illustrated video form, if you prefer). But here’s the portion that piqued my interest:

“My sense is that Obama is a very bad negotiator. Obama doesn’t listen. Clinton listened. Clinton understood the art of getting to a deal because he’d been Arkansas governor. He’d dealt with legislatures. He was used to talking it out, paying attention. Obama is a college professor. He gives a lecture and then he grades you on your ability to understand his lecture. There’s no practical way that a Republican-Obama negotiation is going to work, because they want radically different things.”

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