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August 01, 2011


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“In the short term, everyone suffers politically. In the long term, I think the Republicans have done terrible damage to their brand. Because now they’re thoroughly defined by their most strident voices,” - David Axelrod.

This is why the White House has latched onto the word "compromise" as its clarion call: "compromise" is the last thing the most strident voices in the Republican Party will do. The super-committee formed in Congress to deal with the deficit will continue this cuts vs. taxes debate (without the threat of default hanging over our heads), Obama will continue calling for "compromise" thus further inflaming the Tea Party and encouraging the GOP to nominate an extreme candidate, and Obama will then campaign with the repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and closing corporate/hedge fund loopholes as key domestic policy planks.

It might not be audacious, but this has been a calculated political approach. Dems don't like it, but the White House thinks they've handled this well.


"he's not the leader he promised to be". I always got the impression you thought very highly of him when he was running, Ian- are you disappointed now, or just not surprised? (politics being a game of over-ramped expectations and all)

Rob Marchant

@Tom: the White House may think they've handled this well but, if so, they're in a very small minority.



Agreed. I don't often see eye to eye with Ross Douhat, but I think he is right on in his column today.


I'd be curious to hear what you think of Nate Silver's piece on the fine print of the deal, Ian:

Silver seems to think (and I can see his point) that the deal, while perhaps not a political win for Obama or Democrats, was in essence bound to happen anyway – with the Tea Partiers' bucket of crazy in full play – and to be inherently bad for Democrats and the administration whatever way it was cut. The *particulars* of the deal, though, seem to have ended up quite good for Democrats – or at least better than they could have probably expected. The first wave of cuts are heavily back-loaded for the 10 year outlook and probably won't have an immediate impact on the economy, and they also protect low-income and entitlement programs while having a full 50% of the cuts come from Defense spending; meanwhile the 'trigger' for the second stage of cuts includes quite a bit of cuts (mainly also to Defense) that Republicans won't like any better than Democrats, but at least the Democrats can live with if they have to. Silver seems to think this might give them an extraordinary bit of leverage in the second phase, and will allow them to push the commission to recommend (and Congress to pass) significant new revenue.

I admit to not having a lot of faith in Obama's White House at this point either (though, like you, I had eagerly hoped – and, well, still cling to that hope – that his campaign represented something different), but I *can* at least see the possibility of what Tom said playing out. With both the commission's recommendations and onward throughout the campaign, Obama and the Democrats might end up in a very good position to call out the "uncompromising" Tea Partiers' hypocrisy, bring the Bush tax cuts front and center, and make the election be about the contrast between their pragmatic, 'good for the nation', and, when needed, compromising approach versus the Tea Party's dangerously dogmatic and naïve approach that held the nation hostage last year.

Erm, well, at least that's the hope.


Two things

1) I'm not sure Obama was actually as uninvolved in the negotiating process as you make out, McConnell and Obama were certainly talking late on Saturday night at the White House.

2) I would agree with you however that Obama has handled this rather poorly.
a)This fight was avoidable - the debt ceiling could have been raised in the previous congress (eg December 2010).
b)Normally you open with an unreasonable proposal and move to the middle in negotiations. The Republicans made their position clear and stuck to it. Obama moved from his opening positon with remarkable speed - shifting swiftly from asking for a 'no-strings' increase to a moderate compromise, and then later met the Republicans in the middle from this position.
c)Obama put his powerful (albeit unusual) negotiating arsenal away, denying him leverage and giving him a self-inflicted wound in a fight over a self-inflicted crisis. Citing the 14th amendment was perfectly legal, in the eyes of a former counsel to the Fed. Minting trillion dollar platinum coins is on the statute book. Options that while they might be odd, would carry weight in negotiations.


Just read Ross Douthat's piece; oof, should've read that first before commenting. Unfortunately, Douthat seems to reach a very plausible conclusion, that Obama may have given up long-term strength for short-term strategy.


Wasn't this what he ran for? A new kind of politics in Washington where people work together (compromise) rather than what the tea partiers do, antagonize. As for the constitutional argument, he said his lawyers said it won't work, plus what if it backfired down the line if the tea party took it to court? The only thing he didn't get was the tax hike, he'll probably get that in 2013.


Obama has re-calibrated the role of the President of the USA, while keeping all of the functions intact.

Impotent and platitudinous, Obama has become a Royal.

He was a superficial candidate, and I can only imagine the anguished ridicule he suffers at the Clinton family dinner table.

Account Deleted

It looks like we've both reversed our position. You've flipped on the preternatural president eulogies since 2008. And I now see Obama playing a long game of poker with people arrested at the end of the deal. Let's see.

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