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Baker appears sufficiently smart to understand a basic accounting identity, but his comment on politics neglects that humans are social.
Obama might understand basic economics, but politics is also a game of power and a system where relationships matter a lot.
Politicians likely understand that their position depends on a brief impression and on the defense of the interests which will ensure their re-election. A spot in the news isn't a place to debate or negotiate; it's a place to make an impression. Obama won't come on TV or use his public addresses to sell his projects through a cunning and well-structured argumentation; he'd rather stick to simple ideas and plain claims.
As for elected officials in general, do they seriously talk between them the way they talk to the public? If their seats depend on tax cuts for their business campaign contributors, they'll use whatever they can to make it seem like tax cuts is a priority -- and it would even be better if the whole nation believed that it was in the interests of the majority. Why do you think that the right ceases on deficits, the debt or problems in governmental programs? Because they did a careful analysis of the situation? I highly doubt that part. Instead, I'd rather see a scenario where they favor a different use of resources -- i.e., tax cuts instead of spending increases. Debt problems, even if they are long run problems, are good excuses to fight social programs. The narrative matters only so far as it matters to the public, but in truth any excuse could be good.
Likewise, when Obama supports things like gay marriage or his health care reform, he's also appealing to the Democratic voting base. For good or for worst, they want these policies to be implemented and as a good team player he's going to give them things to be happy about. Come the next election, these voters have a greater chance to stick to the Blue team if it gave them most of what they wanted.
Of course, both parties could be seriously convinced of their position. After all, people of a same group tend to share certain opinions and certain values.
It wouldn't surprising that both sides present a favorable gut feel toward specific policy types. Going down that road, you'd expect a very similar situation to arise, though for different reasons. There are certain opinions that Republicans will not dare to produce within their caucus, expecting to be negatively sanctioned (e.g., being excluded, seeing the party vote against their favored policies, etc.). It's one reason why you rarely see people breaking ranks: they internalize a certain vision of what are "reasonable arguments" in their entourage and they won't move too far from it.
Same for Democrats, by the way. As it happens, Obama might not be saying certain things (such as what Baker would like him to say) because he fears he'd receive negative responses from too many voters or too many members of his party. Likewise, he might not use his status as President to sell every idea he personally believes in because it's not seen as acceptable.
To know exactly how and why this applies, we'd of course need a careful study and lots of data, but the bottom line is that it's not hard to imagine that Baker's comment rests on a very optimistic vision of humans where rational arguments and criticism wins both votes and discussions.