Obama And The Debt Deal: A Failure Of Leadership?

Once again, the debt ceiling deal is raising questions about the President's leadership.

Once again, the outcome of the debt ceiling deal, which by all accounts seems to be a big GOP win, is raising question about the President’s leadership and his ability to effectively advance his agenda in the face of strident opposition. Here’s Ross Douthat’s take on the entire affair, for example:

By rights, Barack Obama should be emerging as the big political winner in the debt ceiling debate. For months, he’s positioned himself near the center of public opinion, leaving Republicans to occupy the rightward flank. Poll after poll suggests that Americans prefer the president’s call for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to the Republican Party’s anti-tax approach. Poll after poll shows that House Republicans, not Obama, would take most of the blame if the debt ceiling weren’t raised.

Yet the president’s approval ratings have been sinking steadily for weeks, hitting a George W. Bush-esque low of 40 percent in a recent Gallup survey. The voters incline toward Obama on the issues, still like him personally and consider the Republican opposition too extreme. But they are increasingly judging his presidency a failure anyway.

The administration would no doubt blame this judgment on the steady stream of miserable economic news. But it should save some of the blame for its own political approach. Ever since the midterms, the White House’s tactics have consistently maximized President Obama’s short-term advantage while diminishing his overall authority. Call it the “too clever by half” presidency: the administration’s maneuvering keeps working out as planned, but Obama’s position keeps eroding.

(…)

The same pattern has played out in the debt ceiling debate. Instead of drawing clear lines and putting forward detailed proposals, the president has played Mr. Compromise — ceding ground to Republicans here, sermonizing about Tea Party intransigence and Washington gridlock there, and fleshing out his preferred approach reluctantly, if at all.

The White House no doubt figured that this negotiating strategy would either lead to a bipartisan grand bargain or else expose Republican extremism — or better still, do both. And again, the strategy is arguably working. Americans were given a glimpse of right-wing populism’s reckless side last week, and the final deal will probably let the president burnish his centrist credentials just in time for 2012.

But winning a debate on points isn’t a substitute for looking like a leader. It’s one thing to bemoan politics-as-usual when you’re running for the White House. It’s quite another to publicly throw up your hands over our “dysfunctional government” when you’re the man the voters put in charge of it.

Taylor Marsh is among those on the left bemoaning what seems to be yet another example of the President abandoning his progressive supporters and making a move to the right:

Waking up naked on Monday morning in front of the world is embarrassing. It’s even worse when people looking at you are laughing.

It left Obama loyalists in disarray, grasping for a way to handle the onslaught of outrage. TPM had an interesting way to go at it, providing headlines with question marks, emails from outraged readers, while Obama fell off a pedestal he’d never earned in the first place.

But regurgitating puma-esque headlines? It was not just sad, but disgraceful.

Buyer’s remorse?

Pres. Obama is our president and no matter your political party we all needed him to stand up to the Tea Party extortionists, who in the end proved the only principled people, however crazy their politics, in this mess. That they provided Mitch McConnell with the weapons he needed should go without saying at this point. That they unmasked progressives in Congress as not having half their courage does as well.

What was needed from the President’s loyalists was someone to do political analysis that pointed the blame where it belongs: Pres. Barack Obama, who not only surrendered, but set up a situation where we all get to revisit his cowardice until 2012, while Republicans now know beyond a reason of a doubt he hasn’t the character for his job.

Harsh words, indeed, but it’s reminiscent of what we heard from the left just seven months ago in the wake of the President’s deal with Republicans to extend the Bush tax cuts, a deal that largely gave the GOP everything they wanted while tossing Democrats the bone of an extension in unemployment benefits. This time, they didn’t even get that. Instead, as Douthat notes, the conversation over the debt ceiling went from the “balanced approach” that the President called for last Monday to an all spending cuts approach in just a week. And it happened because the House of Representatives defined the agenda by pushing two bills — Cut, Cap, and Balance and then Boehner Bill — that, while they had no chance of becoming law as-is, nonetheless succeeded in pushing the final round of negotiations to the right. Even before the President had made his speech last Monday night, the issue of a “balanced approach,” which was the subject of his speech, had already been taken off the table by Harry Reid, who proposed his own plan with no revenue increases. At that point, it just became an argument over how big the spending cuts would be.

Over at American Thinker, Steve McCann argues that the deal signals that Obama’s Presidency is a failure:

He has abdicated all responsibility to the Congress, in particular the House of Representatives, which has little choice but to assume a role they are not structured to do: lead the country as best they can until November 2012.  The American people, suffering under the burden of high joblessness, eroding housing values, inflation and dramatically declining economic growth with no prospect of any immediate relief, are increasingly resigned to the fact that they must focus on surviving as best they can until the election.

Within the term of a president there comes a time and an issue or crisis that define his presidency.  Barack Obama has had his and failed.  The debt ceiling will be raised because the nation’s obligations demand it.   This was never an issue of whether to raise the ceiling, but rather how and what brakes will be applied to the incessant growth of unsustainable spending, in order to sustain the nation’s AAA rating and insure a future for succeeding generations.

It’s a bit much, perhaps, to say that this is a failed Presidency but, as Stephen Green asks, is there really any doubt about what is likely to happen if Obama is re-elected in 2012 but the GOP manages to snatch control of the Senate from the Democrats?

If Obama couldn’t stand up to a Congress half-controlled by the GOP, how will he fare against the next one, after the GOP takes the Senate, too?

“Not well at all,” is the inescapable conclusion. And if you were asked how Obama has done in office overall, “not well at all,” is the most generous thing you could say in response — other than “it’s over,” for an Administration not even three years old.

Don’t get me wrong. If the GOP nominates one of its Unwinnables, Obama could very well take the election next year — but to what purpose?

Green’s sentiments certainly seem accurate. Anyone who thinks that an Obama dealing with a completely Republican Congress is going to suddenly become a reincarnation of Bill Clinton (or Harry Truman) hasn’t been paying attention for the past two and a half years. In fact, as a I noted back in June, Obama’s leadership style makes it fairly easy to predict how he’d act in such a situation:

[Obama] lets events, and people, lead him, a tendency one can clearly see in the Administrations reaction to the unfolding Arab Spring and the events in Libya, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. None of it should be a surprise, however. Barack Obama did not come to the Presidency with extensive leadership experience. Instead, he started his political career as a back bench state legislator in Illinois, part of the Chicago machine in a body dominated by Democrats where compromise with the opposing party wasn’t necessary. During his brief time in the United States Senate., he didn’t really distinguish himself as a leader in the body (not that he really ever had an opportunity to). Nobody should be surprised that, when he became President, he failed to be a leader in the FDR/JFK/Reagan/Clinton mold.

Such a President is unlikely to triangulate in the manner of Clinton, or fight in the manner of Truman. Instead, they’re likely to let Congress lead, and to strike out in areas where the President has more autonomy, like foreign policy. As far as domestic policy goes, though, a second Obama term with a Republican Congress is going to be pretty much like what we’ve seen since December. That’s not likely to be a world his supporters are going to like very much.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Congress, Deficit and Debt, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Hey Norm says:

    Doug’s weekly Obama leadership post.

  2. I must confess that I am a bit confused here.

    Does not the following sort of describe the basic constitutional model?

    Instead, they’re likely to let Congress lead, and to strike out in areas where the President has more autonomy, like foreign policy. As far as domestic policy goes, though, a second Obama term with a Republican Congress is going to be pretty much like what we’ve seen since December.

    I need to give this more thought, as I have seen a number of arguments of this nature, but I am not sure I get the critique.

    Since the president has no formal power to introduce legislation in the constitution, doesn’t that mean that the Founder’s expectations were that Congress would take the lead on domestic policy?

  3. Jib says:

    This is meaningless because the debt ceiling debate is meaningless. A manufactured crisis perfect for the a world driven by cable news and talk radio. Nothing has been decided here except that the debt limit is raised. All the cuts are in future spending, almost all happen well in the future which means they will likely never happen. A commission that can be ignored like any other commission. Triggers that wont fire because no one wants them to fire. Complete and total kabuki dance. Theater purely made for Limbaugh and Fox news. Now we get the meaningless ‘analysis’ of a meaningless event. Perfect. I am giving up empty calories which means I am giving up on politics. Wake me when Italy implodes.

  4. The Heretik says:

    MEMO FROM BARACK OBAMA: We gave a lot and we didn’t get squat.

  5. PJ says:

    Ok, so the sources are a Hillary Clinton supporter during the 2008 primaries, a conservative columnist, and a conservative magazine. Nuff said.

  6. legion says:

    Well, we’ve all been programmed by the organized jackassery that passes for reporting in this country that if the “other guys” aren’t howling in protest, we must be losing.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    I agree with Douthat. Obama wins points for reasonableness but loses authority. I’ve been fascinated to watch what I think of as an Aikido style as opposed to the brawling style of Mr. Bush the Younger. It works but it isn’t seen to work. That inability to understand that sometimes you just need to throw a hard one to the jaw is hurting Obama, and may well be fatal. He isn’t getting the part of the job that is showmanship.

  8. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Does not the following sort of describe the basic constitutional model?…
    I need to give this more thought, as I have seen a number of arguments of this nature, but I am not sure I get the critique.

    Agreed Steven. And given in the past I thought Doug supported the idea that it’s a bad thing that we [the US] has come to embrace a skewed understanding of the role of the Executive Branch as the one that “does it all” — and at least in the case of Lybia, there has been concerns about continued overreach by the Executive branch — that line struck me as quite strange too.

  9. PD Shaw says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    The model I employ is the one I believe the Supreme Court has used since at least Youngstown Sheet & Tube and it views the branches has having overlapping authorities. At the very least the President has the power to recommend legislation and veto legislation, which are legislative powers. (Just as the legislature has some authority in matters of foreign affairs)

    In this matter, the President needed to recommend legislative changes because legislative constraints were going to impede the Treasury Department’s ability to function.

  10. @Steven L. Taylor:

    I’m not saying I would object to such a model. I diminished Presidency is a good thing as a whole, although I’d rather see that happening in the foreign policy area as well. It’s the President’s supporters who are unlikely to be pleased by such developments, though.

  11. @PD Shaw: I agree that there are some overlapping powers (such is the nature of checks and balances). The veto power being the formal example.

    And presidents have always had the ability to suggest legislation. That is a far cry different, however, from the power to formally introduce it.

  12. @Doug Mataconis: Like I said: I need to give it more thought, but I have taken your posts on Obama’s leadership style (and the issue of why legislators ought not be elected to the presidency) as a more general critique rather than a reflection of what his supporters want.

  13. mantis says:

    At the very least the President has the power to recommend legislation and veto legislation, which are legislative powers.

    Neither of those are legislative powers.

    Just as the legislature has some authority in matters of foreign affairs

    This does not make them part of the executive.

    In this matter, the President needed to recommend legislative changes because legislative constraints were going to impede the Treasury Department’s ability to function.

    Are you implying that he didn’t? Have you not noticed the White House’s involvement in the negotiations?

  14. An Interested Party says:

    The President is showing his roots as a legislator…obviously he allows Congress to lead the way quite a bit (much more than some people would like)…still, it’s not terribly surprising that the group of people Doug chose to link to have the assessments they do…one of the resident conservatives at the NYT, a lefty Hillary supporter, and two guys from the American Thinker and Pajamas Media…such a sterling panel…

    Nothing has been decided here except that the debt limit is raised. All the cuts are in future spending, almost all happen well in the future which means they will likely never happen.

    Indeed, how could the Tea Party types possibly vote for this thing…

    …that line struck me as quite strange too.

    Not strange at all if you take it in the context of a reason to bash the President…

  15. Racehorse says:

    Obama needs to read some books about the presidential leadership styles of Truman, Nixon, Johnson, Reagan. They knew how to get things done.
    Too bad, though, that Goldwater, Dirksen, Humphrey, Ford, and O’Neill aren’t around anymore.

  16. @mantis: Actually, the veto is part of the legislative process.

  17. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Hear, hear… As soon as I read that quote I skipped the rest and went to comments to see if any one else caught it, Steve, I should have known you would. Let me quote Art I, sec 8 (Legislative Powers :

    To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

    I don’t read “the President” in any of that, as such it is Congress’s job. To blame Obama for not doing Congress’s job strikes me as….

    I am talking to the wife in Spain just now, you can come with the word.

    Multi-task is NOT my middle name.

  18. Michael says:

    Does not the following sort of describe the basic constitutional model?

    Seems to me that it does, and perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that someone who studied and taught Constitutional Law would turn out to be a less aggressive Executive than we have been used to.

  19. Jib says:

    The more I see of the deal, the more it looks like Obama won. The only thing that matters in these kind of deals is what happens now, today. Anything put off till tomorrow runs the very real chance of not happening at all.

    In this deal the only thing that happens today is the debt limit is raised. It looks like 90% of the cuts, which are all of the ‘reduce future increases’ type, not actually reducing spending, happen after the 2012 election. So it is the 2012 election that will determine what is truly cut. Reps can make bigger cuts if they win, dems can change the cuts and pass tax increases if they win.

    So the only thing that actually happens with this deal is the debt limit is increased. Period. How is this a loss for Obama?

  20. Dave Schuler says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    In addition to his (or her) official constitutional responsibilities the president has other, unofficial responsibilities that are no less important. I don’t think the Founders envisioned the role that political parties have come to play in our system. Extra-constitutional, yes. Also essential.

    Like it or not the president is also the leader of his or her political party.

    I don’t pay a great deal of attention to pronouncements of a failed presidency from people who were pronouncing the Obama presidency a failure on January 22nd, 2009. Concerns from fellow partisans should be taken more seriously. If they aren’t seeing the “aikido” style that Michael describes, above, and are seeing it, instead, as actual passivity, maybe they’re right.

    Real aikido is passive in nature. Presidents must be more than passive.

  21. michael reynolds says:

    How is this a loss for Obama?

    He disappointed his base. He showed the opposition a way to play him. He is not seen as winning.

    He saved the economy, he got a decent deal for the country. But in politics it’s not enough to win: the other side must lose.

    Obama plays the game entirely from the perspective of what is good for the country — but that’s not the whole game. The game is also about power. Obama keeps winning battles and losing support. He’s in serious danger of losing the election because we are not a country that recognizes or rewards subtlety or effectiveness.

  22. Doubter4444 says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Agreed.
    It’s long ball, also.
    For all that are complaining from the left think o this: He has essentially painted the conservative Tea-baggers in to a corner. From now on one all he has to do is sigh and say you see? They want to destroy America. They can’t be trusted. On anything. So push back now that the deadline is not on us is easy and clear. They can’t be trusted to run the store. Over and Over that;s the pitch. And it has the benefit of being true. So when they pitch a fit over PELL Grants, for god’s sake, normal people nod their heads.
    And so it starts.
    This play is not the debt deal, this is for the second term.
    So think of this: rather than it empowering the Tea Party crazies, Obama, reelected, leverages 20 of so moderate R’s in the house who just squeaked by a hard election and see the light a bit. Doing so allows him to tell his left flank that he’ll let the Bush tax cut expire, to tack hard on social issues.
    Fro the right side that see compromise as a viable option he pushes for real changes to reduce spending.
    I think he’s a lot smarter that we’re used to and can rope a dope like Ali.
    At leaste i hope so.

  23. Michael says:

    I don’t think the Founders envisioned the role that political parties have come to play in our system.

    Yeah they did, they were just hoping they could prevent it.

  24. @Dave Schuler: True about parties.

    I am not saying that the president (any president) should remain passive and leave domestic politics solely to Congress. I take Doug’s (and others’) critiques here, though, to seem to mean a leadership that is ultimately does not exist.

    I think, as Neustadt put it a while back, the president’s power is the power to persuade. Persuasion, however, is still a limited power. The fact that a president can not introduce legislation nor can he vote on said legislation is no small thing.

  25. Doubter4444 says:

    Sorry for the typos!! – hit send not edit:
    Agreed.
    It’s long ball, also.
    For all that are complaining from the left think of this: He has essentially painted the conservative Tea-baggers in to a corner.
    From now on one all he has to do is sigh and say you see?
    They want to destroy America. They can’t be trusted.
    On anything.
    So the push back now that the deadline is not on top of us is easy and clear:
    They can’t be trusted to run the store.

    Over and Over that’s the pitch.
    And it has the benefit of being true.
    So when they pitch a fit over PELL Grants, for god’s sake, normal people nod their heads.
    And so it starts.

    This play is not the debt deal, this is for the second term.

    So think of this: rather than this crap empowering the Tea Party crazies, it gets Obama reelected, once that’s done, he leverages 20 of so moderate R’s in the house who just squeaked by a hard election and see the light a bit.
    Doing so allows him to tell his left flank that he’ll let the Bush tax cut expire, to tack hard on social issues.
    Fro the right side that see compromise as a viable option (Snowe Collins and a few others) he pushes for real changes to reduce spending.
    I think he’s a lot smarter that we’re used to and can rope a dope like Ali.
    At least I hope so.

  26. @Michael:

    Yeah they did, they were just hoping they could prevent it.

    Only kind of. On balance, they really did not understand the central role parties would end up playing in democracies.

    Madison thought, for example, that different majorities would coalesce around specific issues and then dissipate as new issues (and a new majority) would emerge.

  27. PD Shaw says:

    Article II, Section 3:

    He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper

    Sounds like the President has a Constitutional role in lawmaking on measures he believes important.

  28. @PD Shaw: Which is why I said above:

    And presidents have always had the ability to suggest legislation.

    However, the provision you cite does not guarantee that such suggestions even be formally introduced into the legislative process. This is no small factor.

  29. michael reynolds says:

    @Doubter4444: I don’t doubt his intelligence or his ability. I doubt the country will see it or reward it. If this were a nation of soccer players, maybe. But this is football country: we like to hear the crunch of hard impact.

  30. mattb says:

    Real aikido is passive in nature.

    Complete side note (and martial art geek out): “Real” aikido is anything but passive. The entire “it’s passive” thing has largely been a perversion of the art thanks to the influence of new-age-ers. Though O-Sensei was a pacifist, and in his last few years stresses the “yielding” aspect of Aikido, that’s not the same as assuming it’s passive.

    At best, Aikido aggressively yields (or rather guides). In practical application, that guiding is usually set up through striking of some sort.

    (Oh and Tai Chi really is also not passive or just for the elderly either… it’s pretty bad ass when trained for fighting)

  31. Scott F. says:

    I’m with Jib and Doubter4444. It may appear a loss at this moment, but the game is played over four quarters. And it’s not even half time.

    The deal puts most of the growth constraining cuts beyond 2012. That’s all that could be done with this Congress to improve the chances the economy will gain strength in the next year or so. One hopes the Republicans will at least try to offer something on jobs now that the debt ceiling charade is past, which will help as well. As long as the general economy is even incrementally improving, Obama benefits.

    Obama will get his revenue from the sunsetting Bush tax cuts. He doesn’t need to do anything for that to happen.

    As for his base, all Obama needs to do to re-energize them is to point to the 3 Supreme Court justices who will turn 80 between 2013 and 2017.

  32. Michael says:

    Only kind of. On balance, they really did not understand the central role parties would end up playing in democracies.

    Madison thought, for example, that different majorities would coalesce around specific issues and then dissipate as new issues (and a new majority) would emerge.

    True, but then again the founders didn’t make a democracy, that grew later. When the Constitution was passed, the voting franchise was much more limited.

  33. PD Shaw says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: The President’s power to recommend was important enough for the SCOTUS to reference in the case I cited.

    We are not talking simply about the President using the bully pulpit to talk about regulating fat people. The President had responsibilities that were constrained and jeopardized by Congressional legislation. In this instance, the President is subject to difficult regulation and he had no choice but to be involved.

  34. sam says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I need to give this more thought, as I have seen a number of arguments of this nature, but I am not sure I get the critique.

    Nor do I. One theory I’ve seen bruited about is that all this moaning about the lack of presidential leadership from the right is really masking a desire for Obama to put himself out there so they can hang any failures on him.

  35. mantis says:

    Actually, the veto is part of the legislative process.

    Yes, but it is an executive power. I was responding to PD’s claim that the veto is a legislative power. It’s an executive power, though you’re right it is part of the legislative process. I’m probably just splitting hairs here, and should just shut up.

  36. @mantis: Gotcha,

    Funny you should mention “splitting hairs” as I was just about to comment that I think that PD and I are splitting hairs on the legislative introduction issue.

  37. Racehorse says:

    When this deal goes down, let’s find out exactly where every penny goes: every pork barrel, weird project and funding of groups like the “ACORN” fiasco. Put them all up for everyone to see where their hard earned money goes to.

  38. Lgbpop says:

    Poll after poll suggests that Americans prefer the president’s call for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to the Republican Party’s anti-tax approach.

    I haven’t seen any of these polls except for one from Quinnipiac, which shows President McCain’s popularity higher than ever. You yourself note Obama’s drop in popularity following his bombast and threats, all related to his demand that taxes not only be raised but – yet again – be raised only on a certain group of people instead of across the board. People don’t like the class warfare Obama and the Democrats indulge in, and they are tired of being gouged for yet more money for the leftists to buy more votes.

    Please, if you are privy to these mysterious polls, put up links to them.

  39. Jib says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You are talking about spin, what the talking heads are saying but that will not matter in the long run.

    First conventional DC wisdom (i.e. talking heads) are notoriously bad in the first 24 hours. Just go back and look at the history. They change their stories very fast in the first week. Dont be surprised if after a week, the whole story is different. My bet, within 3 days ‘Obama won’ will become the cool, hip interpretation given by those who REALLY know what is going on (wink. wink). Hell, Slate magazine has based an entire biz model on going against conventional wisdom about 48 hours after it gets established.

    Second, the vast majority of people are not paying attention to this. Not one bit. They dont care what the talking heads are saying. Remember, Jon Stewart has a larger audience than Fox News. And Jon Stewarts audience is a small audience, just what you would expect from a cable comedy show. Most people dont follow the talking heads.

    The debt ceiling is a kabuki dance. It does not matter. That is why the markets have greeted the whole thing as one big nothing. The market is much more concerned the slowing economy and what is going on in Euro land than it is about debt ceilings.

  40. mattb says:

    @Lgbpop

    I haven’t seen any of these polls except for one from Quinnipiac [that say Americans supported raising taxes/combination of taxes and tax cuts to solve debt],

    :
    Here’s a quick listing… I thought there was a pew, but couldn’t find it:
    Gallup* – http://www.gallup.com/poll/148472/Deficit-Americans-Prefer-Spending-Cuts-Open-Tax-Hikes.aspx
    ABC/Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/behind-the-numbers/post/polls-did-the-public-get-what-it-wanted-in-debt-deal/2011/07/12/gIQAD7cZnI_blog.html
    CBS: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/07/18/politics/main20080496.shtml?tag=contentMain;contentBody

    Note on Gallup – while the headline reads, American prefer spending cuts, if you look at the data you see that the majority favor at least some tax/revenue increase measures..

  41. Tsar Nicholas says:

    “Affirmative action” doesn’t develop leadership skills; ergo, the lack of leadership displayed by Rambobama’s teleprompter should not be a surprise to anyone. To anyone with a functioning cerebrum, that is.

  42. george says:

    I kind of think that except for the PR part, Obama came out ahead. And funnily enough, what’s costing him the PR victory is progressives, who feel that he should have somehow forced more out of Congress, perhaps using his mythical Presidential super powers.

    The whole obsession with leadership in the US is curious – leadership is what you get from monarchies. Our gov’t is supposed to be representive – to reflect the views of citizens, rather than to lead them. I’m not sure if this desire for leadership is laziness or spinelessness, but its a bad sign.

    Its also odd because in a country of 300 plus million, there is a huge variety of views; there is no consensus on what “America wants”, no matter how many times politicians and pundits talk about the American people as if it were a unity.

  43. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PD Shaw: PD, I am always amazed how you can read one small part of the constitution, and ignore the rest.

  44. Doubter4444 says:

    @Scott F.:
    Exactly, which is why I’m not worried. He’s going to say the hell with them and enough will back him:
    2 to 3 more Supremes, and a host of recess appointments, fights on social issues that he wis on – all he’ll say is the Baggers won’t even try, so he has to it.
    His numbers won’t take a hit.
    And the left who worry that he’s a wimp will eat it up.
    I’m loving it.

  45. A voice from another precinct says:

    Where Obama wins in this situation is ultimately dependent on where the economy goes during the next year or so. The GOP got pretty much everything that they could get beyond repeal of taxes for the top 1% altogether. As the economy continues to tank–or in the best case scenario, refuses to grow and employ more people–GOP economic policy should become, to borrow from Sarah Palin, refutiated by most everyone who can observe the world.

    Where Obama loses in this situation is that the collective memory of the nation is down to about 6 months. The election is 15 months away. When it comes time to remember what happened here and act on it, the only people who may be able to will be the Tea Party and their associated counterpart on the left. If such is the case, we probably can expect that the polarization will continue.

  46. michael reynolds says:

    The consensus has formed around the idea that Obama lost.

  47. ponce says:

    The consensus has formed around the idea that Obama lost.

    Then why are the Teatards threatening to primary the Republicans who voted for the deal?

  48. mattb says:

    @Doug: You seem to be taking two positions that don’t hang together particularly well:

    On one side you wrote that the Tea Party is Politically Irrelevant on the other side you are saying that Obama failed to lead on this issue.

    It seems to me that at once you are diminishing the all too real role on group of actors played on this process and, at the same time, overemphasizing the power Obama had over the process.

    I’m really struggling to see either position,

  49. Dave Schuler says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Glenn Greenwald has a somewhat different take. In his view the president got exactly what he wanted.

  50. MBunge says:

    “The consensus has formed around the idea that Obama lost.”

    I would also like to point out that the consensus is that Bill Clinton was a political genius despite never getting 50% of the public to vote for him, leading the Democratic party to its worst electoral defeat in two generations and leaving office with the Democrats in the worst shape they’d been in since…what? Before FDR?

    Mike

  51. WR says:

    @Lgbpop: Gosh, these polls sure are mysterious. I searched and searched to find any trace of them. In fact, it even took Google a full 12 hundredths of a second to come up with 93 million results for “polls tax rich.” The first couple of pages all report essentially the same numbers, so here’s an article for you:

    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0411/53455.html

    It’s amazing what you can learn if you pull your head out of Limbaugh’s butt for five seconds. Or even 12 hundredths of one second.

  52. Steve Verdon says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Since the president has no formal power to introduce legislation in the constitution, doesn’t that mean that the Founder’s expectations were that Congress would take the lead on domestic policy?

    Yes, I think that is correct, but it no longer describes the rhetoric Presidents use, nor does it describe how many people look at our government. Presidents are the leaders, Congress votes on bills that the President puts before Congress. Yeah, I know that isn’t how it works, but that, I would argue, is how most people see it. And while a President can’t introduce a bill on his own, he can have a friendly member of Congress do it for him.

    We really do see the President as our leader, he comes up with the policies and Congress votes on them. Then the SCOTUS reviews them, if necessary, for Constitutionality. That is the reality to many Americans.

    Look at any President’s campaign and the various promises. Promises to reduce inflation, unemployment, stop the decline in manufacturing, do something about health care, address the debt/deficit, or any other domestic issue that is really something Congress is supposed to deal with.

    Comparing what the Founders intended with the way things work today is rather pointless, IMO.

    Frankly, I’m quite happy with the Presidency losing power.

  53. @Steve Verdon:

    but it no longer describes the rhetoric Presidents use, nor does it describe how many people look at our government. Presidents are the leaders, Congress votes on bills that the President puts before Congress. Yeah, I know that isn’t how it works, but that, I would argue, is how most people see it.

    True: but you hit on my broader point, which is that part of problem is that presidents do use (and have for a very long time) this type of rhetoric and the public does see it that way.

    The problem is: even with the rhetoric and the perception, it still doesn’t actually work that way.

    It would be nice if we all (public and politicians) understood our government a tad better than we do,.

    Comparing what the Founders intended with the way things work today is rather pointless, IMO.

    I don’t disagree. But again: the bottom line of the matter, even in 2011 is: the president has no formal ability to introduce legislation and therefore the rhetoric and perceptions don’t match reality.

  54. Jib says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The consensus has formed around the idea that Obama lost.

    Nope, it has not. Already the tide is changing with several of the ‘wait a minute…’ type stories today. By the end of tomorrow you will get a sizable number of ‘pundits’ saying that Obama did quite well in this deal.

    When this is done, beltway repubs will think Obama lost, beltway dems will think Obama won, most people will not care. $25 billion (the immediate cuts) will not be felt. By the time the cuts kick in so many other things (like an election and whatever will happen in the economy in the next 18 months) will completely override this farce.

    Fact is Obama got a $2 trillion extension of the debt ceiling for $25 billion in immediate cuts and $2.4975 trillion that will occur only after the next election. That is pretty damn close to a no strings attached raise in the ceiling. And its impact will be exactly like a no strings attached increase. i.e. none

  55. michael reynolds says:

    @Dave Schuler:
    He may well have. He often does. Unfortunately that doesn’t alter a perception of weakness.

  56. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds: Unfortunately that doesn’t alter a perception of weakness.

    A perception of weakness can be a bad thing in that it invites challenges. On the other hand, in a situation where challenges are inevitable, such a perception can actually be an advantage because it encourages your opponents to be reckless and extreme.

    Mike

  57. An Interested Party says:

    …it encourages your opponents to be reckless and extreme.

    As the Republicans in general and the Tea Party crowd in particular have been during this whole debt ceiling mess…this kind of thing can only continue (and perhaps work to the President’s advantage) if the GOP nominates one of its more colorful figures to run against the President next year…