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Posted at 1:53 PM ET, 12/ 8/2010

Is Obama triangulating? Naah, not really.

By Greg Sargent

A White House official emails Ben Smith to dispute the notion that Obama's assault on the left yesterday was part of a concerted strategy of triangulating:

Obama, the official noted, was "responding to several very loud voices from the left." Triangulation, by contrast, "is an intentional political strategy to win favor with swing voters by pushing off the left. That's not what the President is doing, and that's not our strategy."

Whatever you think of Obama's broadside yesterday, it seems clear that it has nothing to do with "triangulation," at least as it was practiced by Bill Clinton. Obama's dispute with the left isn't an effort to position himself ideologically as a centrist. It's part of a broader effort to present himself as Washington's lone resident adult in a room full of bickering children on both sides -- the last line of defense for the American people against Washington business-as-usual.

The problem here is that people tend to view Obama's constant quest for compromise and stated aspiration to always seek common ground between warring parties through the prism of ideology. But that aspiration has always been more about temperament and process than about occupying the ideological "center." During the 2008 campaign and since then, he has insisted he would unite opponents by finding points of agreement between them and working outward from there. This isn't really about ideological "centrism" in any meaningful sense. It's a case about process. It might better be described as "Beer Summit-ism."

The reason Obama's attacks on the left smack of triangulation is that he persists on painting the left and the right with the same brush: He presents himself as the last reasonable man trapped between two sides blinded to reason by ideology. Hence his insistence yesterday that he won't be held to any unreasonable "ideal." But as irksom as this is, it isn't really the same as positioning oneself ideologically by arguing that the left is wrong on policy substance, as Bill Clinton did.

Obama's argument with the left, at bottom, is more a dispute over what's achievable, and less an argument over what is desirable to achieve. Obama opposes extending the high end tax cuts, just as the left does. His disagreement with the left is over whether there's another way to achieve the goals Obama and the left agree on: Extending the middle class cuts and extending unemployment benefits. The left says a protracted fight would achieve those things. Obama and his advisers say a fight wouldn't achieve those things, or at least that a fight wouldn't achieve them in time to stave off a tax hike for the middle class. Hence his willingness to reach a deal.

Indeed, Obama's outburst yesterday was rooted in genuine frustration with the left for not agreeing with him about what's possible given today's political realities. It's true that Obama is exploiting this disagreement with the left for political reasons, to position himself as the adult-in-chief and to rise above Congress and the process. This is annoying and counterproductive and a major turn-off to his supporters. But it isn't triangulation.

By Greg Sargent  | December 8, 2010; 1:53 PM ET
Categories:  House GOPers, Senate Republicans, taxes  
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Comments

@Greg

Is there even the slightest chance that anyone will cover what the President said about the GOP in his conference? I know the "Dems in Disarray" narrative is so hard to resist...but he said some pretty groundbreaking things yesterday in a rather pointed assault of the GOP.

Not only that, but even with the media swept up in "Obama Attacks the Left!" meme, no one is discussing what is actual critizisms were, whether they were accurate or off base, whether the left understands his side of it, whether he understands the left's side of it...etc.

It's really annoying how that entire press conference has been boiled down to nothing, absolutely nothing except "Obama lashes out at Left!"

What a testiment to the failure of our media to inform the public of the whole story - or inform them of anything more than a sliver of regurgitated narrative.

Posted by: TheBBQChickenMadness | December 8, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

It has nothing to do with Triangulation.

Mitch McConnell said that his number one objective was to make sure that Obama would be a one term only President.

Getting President Obama to rollover and play dead, so easily has greatlyu enhanced Mitch's chances of making Obama that one term president.

Clinton knew when to hold them, and that is why he was able to stare down Newt, when he shut down the government. Obama is too weak willed to stand his ground on any major confrontations.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 8, 2010 2:08 PM | Report abuse

Greg,
I think your analysis is right and also that liberals need to make peace with this deal and start planning for 2012 and how to avoid the mistakes made on taxes in 2010.

There is certainly some truth to what he said about not being held to an unattainable ideal and about ideological purists having unrealistic goals. That said, what is the point of the frustrated, oppositional tone with the base? Same with Gibbs and other WH officials who genuinely seem to think liberals are their primary opposition and they have every right to cry crocodile tears about every left-of-center critique.

Why not do some basic coalition maintenance? Try to get some buy-in from progressives? Maybe hire one or two people who can speak the language of the base? Sure, the WH will never please the likes Jane Hamsher, et al, but most Libs genuinely want to be on Obama's side and expect at least some outreach when we learn that - overnight - a major campaign promise and component of the Dem party platform for 10 years is being reversed.

Posted by: jbossch | December 8, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

It has nothing to do with Triangulation.

Mitch McConnell said that his number one objective was to make sure that Obama would be a one term only President.

Getting President Obama to rollover and play dead, so easily, has greatly enhanced Mitch's chances of making Obama that one term president.

Clinton knew when to hold them, and that is why he was able to stare down Newt, when he shut down the government. Obama is too weak willed to stand his ground on any major confrontations.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 8, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm constantly amazed by many liberals inability to count to sixty. Some of the lefties are behaving like bed-wetting thumbsuckers who've just been told they can't have chocolate cake for breakfast and have decided to have a temper tantrum.

During the two year campaign for the Presidency Obama said, dozens (hundreds) of times that, "You can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good." Apparently his liberal detractors just weren't listening.

Posted by: HansSolo | December 8, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

As someone in the previous post noted, Benen had a pretty good breakdown of Democratic and Republican priorities addressed in the tax deal.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_12/026981.php

Overall, looks like a win win for everyone.

What cracks me up is some on the left that have been championing deficit spending non stop for the last two years are now cringing and using the same talking points Republicans have been using for two years, "debt on our children and grandchildren" etc.

So, if you thought deficit spending was how to get out of this slump before was OK, it should be just fine now. Were there provisions that were less efficient that Obama conceded to? Sure. As many tried to argue over and over to counter Republicans claims the deficit matters by arguing for deficit spending was the way to get out of this slump, it just seems funny to me how the argument is now being directed at Republicans against their priorities is all.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 8, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

The link I gave in the last comment was wrong. Washmonthly has their permalink messed up atm.

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/

It's the first article up regarding the priorities of the tax compromise.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 8, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

His reasonableness often looks very much like surrender. Was Chamberlain being reasonable at Munich? At some point you have to show some strength.

Posted by: mgferrebee | December 8, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

mgferrebee, check out Benen's breakdown of Democratic and Republican priorities addressed in the deal and then see if he pulled a Chaimberlain or hoodwinked the Republicans.

If Democrats got say 5 out of 8 items they would want to see in the compromise, if my math is correct, that looks like a win to me.

5 > 3 any way you spin it.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 8, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

good post, Greg! Thanks for a few things:

1) "Beer-Summitism" is a term I will use again and again
2) You are exactly right that Obama is focused on what is achievable. The criticism I have of Obama is that he is not loud enough or persistent enough at voicing what is desirable.
3) Building on #2, Obama would have been better served if he had strongly voiced desire to have the tax extension issue resolved before the election. Even if Congress had refused, Obama would have better cover for this compromise. But maybe Congress would have acted and had better results at the polls.

Posted by: matt_ahrens | December 8, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

He has now become more vocal about getting his deal with Mitch passed, than he ever was about getting the extension passed for the middle class only. Now he is saying things like: "the American People are watching". Why the hell wasn't he just as vocal about pushing for the extension that he claimed to prefer, before he caved in to Mitch: he who now has the canary feathers around his mouth.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 8, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Oh yes. This deal is politically balanced between left and right. But that is balance only in one dimensional (political) space. There is also another dimension. TIME. It is very unbalanced in time. It is heavily focused on the next two years both economically and electorially. But over the decades and generations it is skewed absurdly. We have just come through a near disaster that was caused by excessive borrowing. So our Great Leaders' Great Leap Forward? Borrow about five trillion dollars over the next decade. The next two years through the 2012 election may go up but 2030 goes kaboom. Sorry kids.

Posted by: LHO39 | December 8, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

One comment that Obama made that hasn't been much remarked on was this:

"This is a big, diverse country. Not everybody agrees with us. I know that shocks people. The New York Times editorial page does not permeate across all of America. Neither does The Wall Street Journal editorial page."

Obama has always believed that bringing people together and forging consensus is a prerequisite for any long term sustainable solutions.

"I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/18/obama-race-speech-read-th_n_92077.html

Governing with a Congress fully controlled by the Democrats hasn't contributed to bringing people together. The governing imperative has been to craft legislation that brings together enough of the Democratic members to pass bills in the House and Senate, regardless of what the Republicans think. Most progressives are fine with this, the attitude being that they compromised their principles too much already and they should just go forward with their agenda and disregard what the Republicans want because their policies are all wrong and corrupt anyway so they aren't legitimate. Obama sees more clearly the limitations of this approach in a country as closely divided politically as the U.S.

Posted by: jnc4p | December 8, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Oh yes. This deal is politically balanced between left and right. But that is balance only in one dimensional (political) space. There is also another dimension. TIME. It is very unbalanced in time. It is heavily focused on the next two years both economically and electorially. But over the decades and generations it is skewed absurdly. We have just come through a near disaster that was caused by excessive borrowing. So our Great Leaders' Great Leap Forward? Borrow about five trillion dollars over the next decade. The next two years through the 2012 election may go up but 2030 goes kaboom. Sorry kids.

Posted by: LHO39 | December 8, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

When Obama said that under no circumstances would there be tax increases for the middle class, he gave away all of his bargaining power. All the GOP had to do was insist that taxes for the $250k and up crowd stay at their current levels. If he would have not disclosed his bottom line at the beginning of negotiations, then the GOP might have eventually conceded the issue; particularly if Obama would have said, time and time again, that middle class tax increases are due only to the GOP's obstinacy. This was worth a fight, and could have been won. Two years from now, in the middle of a campaign, Obama will have even less stomach for confrontation. The Republicans will then be arguing for the Bush era tax cuts to be made permanent. It was also a mistake to put Social Security on the table, thereby putting that program into further jeopardy.

Posted by: firefoxgs | December 8, 2010 2:38 PM | Report abuse

We have just come through a near disaster that was caused by excessive borrowing.


~~~~

No, that is not correct, try again.

Posted by: HansSolo | December 8, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

The fact is that the Dems and especially deer-in-the-headlights Obama neither have the "cajones" nor the street smarts to deal with Palin and Gringrinch's white-supremacist, theocon thugs and bullies. He needs to take some lessons from Bill Clinton.

Posted by: areyousaying | December 8, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

"He has now become more vocal about getting his deal with Mitch passed, than he ever was about getting the extension passed for the middle class only. "

Really? I don't have the time but I'm sure I could go back through the last few years and find 500 speeches and interview he's given where he mentioned not extending taxes to the wealthy.

Somewhere in there I could find a few interviews where he stated he would also compromise in the event of a poor economy.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 8, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Can't keep posting the same thing over and over. It is not about ideology, triangulation, bickering children, 60 votes...it is about one bad decision after another. These have all been listed in earlier threads (over the past two years). It is about squandering the massive outpouring of goodwill at his inauguration by going with business as usual on monetary and banking policies that, sure, bailed out the markets (I'm rich hop you are too!), but just sort of hoped consumer spending would follow on, as if trickle down worked, then the war in Afghanistan...It is too boring to have to keep grounding the argument against Obama's mistakes in reality. But why do people keep pretending it is about junk like ideological purity, or bad framing, or a fight club, or wondering why no one can appreciate the genius of the great health care industry stimulus bill? He is a fine man doing a bad job being President. Sorry if you can't see that. As for whether the alternate choice, The Clintons, would have done a better job? Hard to say, too early to say.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 8, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

"The next two years through the 2012 election may go up but 2030 goes kaboom."

Your answer would be different if Obama had just gotten the cut continued for under $250,000? I don't think our country is economically doomed because of the 2 year extension for the top 2%.

I think the posters here are crazy if they think that Obama could have let the Republicans kill all the tax cuts and he would have come out the winner. I think the Republicans would have let them expire, then passed new cuts in the new Congress while painting Obama as having raised taxes. Instead we have a cuts, extended unemployment and a payroll holiday. Oh the horror.

Posted by: ashotinthedark | December 8, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

LOL


It's not triangulation. It's not positioning. It's not anything but anger.


The man is angry that he isn't thought of as the Messiah any longer.


He's coming apart at the seems. His arrogance is on display for all to see.


Goodbye Democrats! Goodbye!

Posted by: FormerDemocrat | December 8, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

FormerDemocrat,

hahahahh

hehehehe

hohohoh

Nice name dipshit.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 8, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

I think liberals should make peace with the deal. Its substantially better than expected.

But being opposed to a deal on extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich does not make one a leftist ideologue. It makes one a Democrat from any time since the cuts were passed 10 years ago!

Please WH, win liberal hearts and minds, don't castigate them for holding the very position you and every other Dem has held for 10 years.

Posted by: jbossch | December 8, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Who was in on the deal making? Were Reid and Pelosi there, and did they also sign off on it, or was it just Obama and the Republican leaders who signed off on it?

If Obama did not bring in Reid and Pelosi for the take off, then he has no right to demand that they be onboard for the crash landing, and he better start to rely on his new best buds, McConnell and Boehner, to get the rest of his agenda passed. Good luck with that approach. I am sure that they will be very eager to make him look good.

It sure sounds like he usurped Harry Reid's authority, as Majority Leader of the US Senate, by cutting a deal with the Minority Leader of the Opposition party, without first getting Harry on board.

If he did that; then he has no right to expect any future loyalty from Harry.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 8, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

"...he has insisted he would unite opponents by finding points of agreement between them and working outward from there."

It is too bad the world does not work that way, but this isn't couples therapy. Mediation only works when two sides agree to bring their issues to mediation. Obama's enemies are to his right. If he can't understand their desire to destroy his Presidency he is a fool and his supporters are his enablers.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 8, 2010 2:59 PM | Report abuse

"Instead we have a cuts, extended unemployment and a payroll holiday. Oh the horror."

Wouldn't call it a payroll holiday, but it's a step in the right direction. It's a two percentage point reduction in the Social Security payroll tax. I think a holiday is more of a complete suspension of the tax for a set time frame. Ideally, the new rate will become the new ceiling and Obama will be painted as "raising taxes" if he doesn't act to further extend the holiday. Maybe it will help to undermine support for the program overall, as the holiday is being paid for out of the general fund, breaking the link of "i paid in, I get benefits."

Posted by: NoVAHockey | December 8, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

After viewing the president's paranoid, rambling attack on the few friends he might have saved, he seemed not half as much like Clinton as he did like Richard Nixon scribbling together his enemies list.

Posted by: SageThrasher | December 8, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

They see my Biden they hidin

Oh! Oh!

http://o.onionstatic.com/images/articles/article/2718/Shirtless-Biden-R_jpg_630x463_pad-black_upscale_q85.jpg

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/cm/cosmopolitan/images/Ti/Scott-Brown-new3.jpg

Posted by: pressF1 | December 8, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

OT, FYI:

~Fact-checking attacks on the DREAM Act~

Under the DREAM Act, after two years of higher education or military service "you are eligible for citizenship. Once a citizen, this paves the way to bring the rest of (your) extended family to the United States." Ted Poe, Thursday, December 2nd, 2010.

Ruling: BARELY TRUE

"In Florida, illegal immigration costs taxpayers nearly $4 billion (a year). This amounts to $700 for every household in Florida." Vern Buchanan, Thursday, December 2nd, 2010.

Ruling: FALSE

The DREAM Act the "would give amnesty to over two million illegal aliens." RightMarch.com, Wednesday, December 1st, 2010.

Ruling: FALSE

All details for these three are here:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2010/dec/08/fact-checking-attacks-dream-act/

Posted by: Ethan2010 | December 8, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

He is not triangulating, that's called crawling subserviently!

Posted by: CHAOTICIAN101 | December 8, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me or are other peoples comments getting eaten for short periods of time then appearing?

I usually have to go to another page then re-enter the comments section to see it appear.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 8, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"Instead we have a cuts, extended unemployment and a payroll holiday. Oh the horror."

It's a two percentage point reduction in the Social Security payroll tax on employees. Hardly a "holiday." But I'll take it, as it resets the ceiling on what the payroll tax should be in the future.
They reduced the tax from 6.2% to 4.2% -- any move to bring it back to is now a tax hike.

It's also a tax cut that is being paid for out of the general fund, breaking that bond of "i paid in, I get benefits."

Posted by: NoVAHockey | December 8, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

OK. Now I just got a strange movable type error problem. And I think my last comment got eaten as have others today.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | December 8, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

Mike,

Mine have been also. Even refreshing the page does not make them show up. Eventually they do post.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 8, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

"Your answer would be different if Obama had just gotten the cut continued for under $250,000? "

No. All the Bush tax cuts were stupid when they were first proposed. We THEN had a huge debt problem and a SURPLUS. We should have started paying off the debt THEN. But under Bush and the Republicans at the time and with the "leadership" of Dick "Deficits don't matter" Cheney the political decision was made to let us spend our money ourselves. How did that work out? Now we have no chance of attacking the DEBT in any foreseeable time. But to just keep piling up deficits is LONG TERM insane. And do not assume that this makes me a Democrat. They all suck. Slimy self promoting career toads is what they are.

Posted by: LHO39 | December 8, 2010 3:16 PM | Report abuse

"the Republicans would have let [the tax cuts] expire, then passed new cuts in the new Congress."

In the new Congress neither Party will have the power to pass anything more than naming Post office buildings and resolutions honoring Girl Scout troops.

Posted by: LHO39 | December 8, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm always amazed at how journalists presume to know eactly what's on someone else's mind! They are mind readers. And yet, if someone stated that they "talked to God", the same people would say "Oh, you're crazy! You can't hear or see God". But Sargent knows exactly what's in, and on, Obama's mind. And many others know also!

It's also interesting when a person is presumed to be "weak" and "timid", barks back at the "herd". They just become so unglued. So now the "that boy"-the president, is now being uppity! "He's walking a fine line between being "presidential", and acting like a Malcolm X!"

Posted by: D-0f-G | December 8, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

And by the way, there is no compromise unless you think taking care of people unemployed is now a partisan issue! And that will primarily bail out states mostly lead by Repugs which will use the compromise bucks to show how great they are!

The Repugs got:
an extension of Tax give aways until a Presidential election year when any possibility of ending the give aways is less than zero!
Extensions of tax loopholes
More give away for inheritance Billionaires
A raid on Social Security funding signaling the end of this program.
A useless investment tax credit(itself a tax loophole giveaway) with businesses sitting on $2 Trillion they won't spend and small businesses without access to capital and more worried about survival than investing for the future!

And Barry got a 13 month extension of some unemployment?

With Compromises like that .....

Posted by: CHAOTICIAN101 | December 8, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Hilarious...

He called himself a New Democrat...who am I going to believe...Greg Sargeant or Barack Obama...

Posted by: justmy2 | December 8, 2010 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Obama has shown great strength - look at the passage of health care as an example. Strength is revealed in accomplishment and not in bluster and accusation.

Posted by: observer67 | December 8, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I would prefer to let all the tax cuts expire, rather than extend the Bush cuts for the fattest cats in the land.

The Republicans have played brinkmanship with not extending unemployment benefits before, and they have alway ended up having to let them get passed, and apply retroactively.

Democrats could have spend the first half of 2011 bringing up the tax cuts for the middle class over and over, which would keep putting Republicans on the spot, to keep holding out for tax breaks for the fat cats who do not need them.

Now; Obama has taken all the pressure off the Republicans, and shifted it onto the Democrats, not to block the cuts for the middle class.

The more I think about, the more convinced I have become that Obama got taken to the cleaners by the Republicans.

Who is now responsible for making sure that the middle class tax cuts do not expire? Not the Republicans. Now it is all on the Democrats shoulders, and they must also pass tax cuts for the fattest cats in the land. Once they do that; they can not run in 2012 against Republicans for being the ones who favor the super rich.

Thanks a lot President Obama for putting our party in that trick bag.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 8, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Combining Clinton's tactic of razzing off everyone equally so he's not perceived as playing favorites with Shrub's policy of pushing off problems to the next administration or even the next generation. The best of all possible worlds! I'm still not voting 'Publican next time. Why would I? He walks like a 'Publican, he just doesn't quack like one.

Posted by: Capn0ok | December 8, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

I've been thinking about this post for a while and keep coming back to the same two points of mystification. Is it really painting with the same brush to say one side is holding the country hostage and the other side is being so stubbornly purist as to be ineffectual? Seems like two very different brushes to me.

And point two: how does it work that Obama gets hammered for not showing his fight but is supposed to turn his cheek for infinity when he keeps getting vilified from the left? Somebody can't take it here, and I'm not sure it's Obama.

And here's a bonus point. If there's something out there that's
counterproductive, it seems to me it's the incessant outrage on the left.

Posted by: AllButCertain | December 8, 2010 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Mitch McConnell is delighed with the deal. That is all you need to know. If Mitch could not be happier with the coup he pulled off, then why the hell are the left, or the rational middle supposed to be happy about it.

It is absurd to keep adding trillions more in debt to pamper the fat cats in the land, since we have plenty of evidence that the Bush Tax cuts did not add jobs, or stimulate the economy and will not.

Posted by: Liam-still | December 8, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Heh, heh, those darn lefties, they worked so hard to get Obama elected (unless you think that water was carried by The Clintons' supporters), but it was all just a ruse. We set him up just to tear him down.

Yes now every idiot can see the Republicans were never Obama's problem, they just wanted to have him find common ground with the liberals and work out from there; all along it was the left with their purist incessant outrage that wrecked everything.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 8, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Now it is reported (Fox) that a few House Democrats want to have a caucus vote on whether to bring the tax cut extension up for a vote in the whole House. They say if a majority of Dems are not for it then it should not be voted on. This sucked when the Republicans did it and it sucks now. PARTY-ISM is the worst of all the nation's problems.

Posted by: LHO39 | December 8, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

I think it's fine to be unhappy with this deal. And, yes, the Republicans are the impossible big elephant in the room. I just don't see how it's useful for Obama's supposed side to routinely impugn his character and motives and abilities. That's supposed to work?

Posted by: AllButCertain | December 8, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Progressives are not attacking Obama for being pragmatic. They're attacking him for what you describe here. His belief that he can rise above partisanship. If there were a pragmatic and reasonable faction of Republicans -- call it the Dick Lugar faction -- whom he could play off against the hard-liners dedicated to his defeat -- call it the McConnell faction -- then his strategy would make sense. But there is no Lugar faction, and his strategy is disastrous. On HCR, it wasn't just the public option -- it was dragging the process out, weakening the bill day by day, in search of Republican support that was never ever going to happen. On the stimulus bill, it was the huge unilateral concessions on the size and tax-cut component that weakened the bill in exchange for 0 Republican votes. On the Bush tax cuts he needed to say, _last year_: "Tax cuts above 250,000 do nothing for the economy and explode the deficit, and tax cuts below 250,000 will grow the economy and add relatively little to the deficit. The number is 250,000, and I'll veto anything else." It's negotiating 101 -- you stake out the strongest position you can with the most plausible rationale you can think of. It would have strengthened the hand of Reid and Pelosi with their own caucuses as well as against the GOP. Obama doesn't know how to negotiate, or he's too arrogant to do it. Incompetence either way you slice it.

Posted by: Huigens | December 8, 2010 4:01 PM | Report abuse

Nor does it have anything to do with what the word means.

Posted by: CultureClub | December 8, 2010 4:06 PM | Report abuse

It is all about triangulating. Obama is playing to the independents now. That is why he blind sided his base with the deal. He gets to portray himself as the reasonable man in the center - with the wing nuts on one side & the loony left on the other. It just might work in 2012.

Posted by: Jihm | December 8, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

"In an unintended consequence of the new health care law, drug companies have begun notifying children’s hospitals around the country that they no longer qualify for large discounts on drugs used to treat rare medical conditions."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/08/health/policy/08health.html?_r=3&src=twt&twt=nytimespolitics

So, Obama: tax cuts for millionaires and no drugs for kids with cancer.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | December 8, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Speaking for myself and the distressed and saddened Barak Obama people around me (not for others on this board) we love Barak Obama's character and his motives. That won't change.

His abilities? He has amazing abilities. Hmmm, I tend to think of it as a series of compounding errors, as when a very good pilot ends up being responsible for crashing a plane. It is ok, we worked very hard on behalf of this man and we are very glad McCain Palin are nowhere near the levers, but we are not Barak Obama's problem. We just aren't.

It is counterproductive for the Obama administration to get mad at the people who elected him for reminding him why we did that. If we wanted the Clintons to do their thing again, we would have worked to get the Clintons back in the White House.


Posted by: shrink2 | December 8, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Given the burden the country is under with the presence of Republicans in our government, Obama may have gotten the best deal he could. Negotiating with the Taliban is an iffy strategy, but the alternative may have been worse for the American people.

None of the gifts the GOP gave to the superwealthy will help stimulate job growth. But the portion Obama pushed for will. At least we have a Democrat in the White House, even if he compromises too much.

Posted by: B2O2 | December 8, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

$900 billion for 600K new jobs is a pretty malodorous deal.

$900 billion in infrastructure spending, unemployment extensions, and aid to the states would save and create millions of jobs. It's net expense would also be a lot less than $900 billion since about a third of the money will be recaptured in the form of new tax revenue.

A lot of things can be said about the Obama-McConnell plan, but stimulative isn't one of them. Unless of course a person is an heir of the Waltons, or Mitch McConnell's shih tzu.

As far as Obama's strategy and intentions go, I think he's genuinely trying to make something happen -- if only so he can come to the public and say "look I did something!" Never mind that he lied about the stimulative impact of his plan (not MILLIONS of new jobs, maybe hundreds of thousands) and he's not be forth-right -- or is perhaps blind -- to some of the consequence for near-term budgeting.

He and his team are genuinely bad negotiators. The question that he only seems to considering in passing: "Would we be better off with no deal at all, or this?"

In the case of the unemployment extension, the GOP has blocked extensions 5 times in order to extract concessions (hostage taking) over just this past year. This is nothing new. Eventually they come around and vote overwhelmingly for the measure. Why would this time be any different?

The Bush tax cuts themselves remain a budget-busting, job-destroying, monstrosity. Let them all expire.

Posted by: JPRS | December 8, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

"It just might work in 2012."

Jihm, no it won't. For now, the center right has written off Obama. Without his original base, he has no chance in 2012, unless, unless...the Republican money management firm of Gillespie, Barbour & Rove can not prevent Sarah Palin's nomination in Tampa, August 2012. I believe they can. All she wants is fame/money, I mean money. You can buy fame.

But if the center right has a Romney, Obama will need every vote from the left he can get. ooops.

I can't figure out why he (Axelrod, Biden, etc.) can't understand that. Base enthusiasm is e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Or, does Obama think his base is in the very center of American politics? That would be so funny, it would be sad if he thought that.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 8, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Obama and his liberal acolytes face a divided government now. People whose voices Obama chose to ignore in the past now have enough political power in DC that the liberals include them.

there is simply no reason for the conservatives in America to behave in a manner acceptable to the left. The left never seems to care what their political opposition thinks so this is just us adapting to the new reality.
Folks like Huigens thenk they get to define "pragmatic and reasonable" and that is simply not so. The left never rests, never gives up, never relents. the right needs to have the same drive and ambition. The energy to move America toward the principles of conservatives must exceed the countervailing forces that seek to move America toward socialism. the left will hate this new environment but who cares? they never concerned themselves with accomodating those who disagree so that's the new battlespace.

That's the sauce for your goose liberals. Your tools and techniques are now being employed to thwart your ambitition just as you demanded that they be used against Bush and the congressional Republicans. If hardball was OK then, it is OK now. I suggest you make sure your cup is properly positioned, strap on your cleats and step up to the plate.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 8, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Obama is so defensive and thin-skinned.

He doesn't even have the guts to say exactly which "loud voices" he means. Because he knows he doesn't stand a chance in any argument with them.

I don't care if he is "triangulating" or not - whatever he is doing is just as disgusting, cowardly, and self-defeating.

Posted by: solsticebelle | December 8, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Obama is so defensive and thin-skinned.

He doesn't even have the guts to say exactly which "loud voices" he means. Because he knows he doesn't stand a chance in any argument with them.

I don't care if he is "triangulating" or not - whatever he is doing is just as disgusting, cowardly, and self-defeating.

Posted by: solsticebelle | December 8, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Sadly, one thing that the President fails to realize -- or refuses to realize -- is that a lot less is achievable if one decides from before the get-go that there's no point in even bothering to try.

No one, no one expects the President (or any politician, for that matter) to win every battle. But we DO expect them to at least show up and, at the least, to go through the motions.

Posted by: edallan | December 8, 2010 4:38 PM | Report abuse

See, here is Exhibit A:

"If hardball was OK then, it is OK now. I suggest you make sure your cup is properly positioned, strap on your cleats and step up to the plate."

All of Obama's pandering and likes-to-fight guy on the right...is still the same guy.

So Obama needs to get into the fray backed by the people who get it, fighting is how this has to be.
Corrupt compromise, pay to play, kick the can down the road...that is business as usual in Washington. Fighting for the right thing, that is what we elected Obama to do. Too bad.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 8, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

@Greg...

Triangulation? Not at all. But it is interesting how all of sudden, but only just yesterday, the progressives suddenly remember how bad they felt when Clinton -- before yesterday the "master politician whom President Obama should be emulating" -- turned his sight on re-election and Newt Gingrich with the help of Dick Morris.

I don't understand why the progressives take offense at being compared to the far right conservatives. After all, the progressives new spokeswoman is Arianna Huffington, who spent the Clinton presidency dragging him through the mud from the right, and is now busy getting paid to do the same thing while pretending to be on the left. The far right has a litmus test for those who want to be admitted to the "new" GOP. The far left has the same thing: if you aren't toeing their party line and spouting sufficiently progressive ideology you get an autographed copy of "Primary Colors." The only come in dark blue. Blanche Lincoln got one, even though she prefers a more purplish hue.

If you watched either Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz or Keith Olbermann yesterday, you know they are all about ideology -- not about results.

The President was right to let the left have it. All through the campaign, all through these first two years, they have refused to listen to him say he's not an ideologue -- and frankly, not a progressive either. Yesterday -- and especially after the uncalled for treatment by Krugman and Rich at the NYT, and ridiculously bigoted comments from the unfunny "comedian" Bill Maher.

I hope this moment liberates the President to feel freer to let his anger through. He has a long fuse, but like all of us, it can get shorter and shorter.

Posted by: jade_7243 | December 8, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama, July 2, 2008:

"That's why we held vigils and flew flags. That's why we rallied behind our President. We were ready to step into the strong current of history, and to answer a new call for our country. But the call never came. Instead of a call to service, we were asked to go shopping. Instead of a call for shared sacrifice, we gave tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans in a time of war for the very first time in our history."

http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/jul/02/text-obamas-speech/

Where did that man go?

Posted by: wbgonne | December 8, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

Naaah. He's "Mandelbrot-ting". The same old song (shape), if ya' keep shrinking it with many other clones, ya' can use 'em like pixels, ... to fill in any picture ya' want to.
How many shrinks does it take to change a light bulb? ..... Zero. Because the 'bulb' has to want to change itself.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | December 8, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Unless Palin is nominated Obama will be a one-term President. End of.

Posted by: Aerowaz | December 8, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

"they have refused to listen to him say he's not an ideologue -- and frankly, not a progressive either"

Obama has explicitly and repeatedly called himself a progressive. Beyond political labels, however, I saw Obama as a rationalist, who was a master at reaching correct policy judgments after appropriate deliberation and then persuasively explaining his decision. Unfortunately, Obama's acumen does not extend to political analysis. Rather than play to his strengths Obama as president has abandoned his strengths and committed himself to his weaknesses. I would advise President Obama to use his gifts to identify and explain the problem we face and to outline his proposed solution. I would further advise the President to stop doing political analysis and leave the American people and their Congresspeople to work that out AFTER Obama has contributed as I've detailed.

Free advice. You can't beat that.

Posted by: wbgonne | December 8, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Still the whining from the left is just sinfully delicious. Reading the anguish here is vastly entertaining.

Here's another statement I've made repeatedly here: Ultimately it was the jacobins that lead Robespierre to the guillotine.

so uber liberals, by all means, cry havoc and lose the dogs of war...
... on yourselves.

OH BTW, it is completely proper for Mr McConnel and other Republicans to have as their goal the ousting of Mr Obama at the next election. That's what elections are for. Are you trying to say that the Democrats didn't aim Directly and W? It is to laugh.

Wallow in that sauce boys and girls. You are on the recieving end of the same hard ball tactics you've used for years. The anger of the American tax payer is greater than your ideology.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | December 8, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Obama is triangulating and why shouldn't he?

He also gave Israel a couple of billion $$ worth of F-35 fighter jets with nothing in return. That should set well with his lib minions...

His lib base is Chihuahua tiny with Chihuahua temperament. Like a Chihuahua they will turn on you in an instant. No disrespect to Chihuahua's.

He can't get re-elected with the far left, America has rejected them. He is moving to the center faster than Clinton did and there is NO political reason he shouldn't

Posted by: Straightline | December 8, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

"Where did that man go?"

And how come no one seems to care? If you say, excuse me, but do you remember way back to a year or two ago...well they want to rip you a new one about how realistic they are and how this is just how it is and if you don't like it like this you are supposed to fŭck off. I've been called a lot of things, but a petulant child?

It would be funny if the situation were not so particularly awful.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 8, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

"It would be funny if the situation were not so particularly awful."

Tragic is the word that comes to my mind.

Posted by: wbgonne | December 8, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

skip, I agree with you. We have to fight. We don't like you, we think you are bad, we think we care more about America than you do, we think you are clueless and irresponsible and you think the same thing about us. We are not going to come to any agreements on anything that matters, we know that.

So finally, after years of Republicans and Republican panderers have all but destroyed the country, the country brings in Barak HUSSEIN Obama to preside over a Democratic Legislature. What does he do? What does he do? Business as usual. Oh well, the rest is history.

But I'll keep fighting you. Even though I say I don't like you, it isn't personal. I have lots of conservative friends, I even keep some wing nuts as employees. I just think your ideas are bad, I think I care more about America than you do, I think you are clueless and irresponsible, but apart from that, sure, lets call Barak and have him help us find some common ground. Naaah, we are going to fight anyway, why waste his time.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 8, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

let's get a candidate who will shut down the money interests .... obviously we need to move on from Obama and fight the conservatives who leach off the working man.

education ineptness , tax breaks for the rich, where does it stop .... unite those that care about themselves and other people ... it's that simple

Posted by: agra09 | December 8, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

The young people who worked to get President Obama elected want a super hero; they got a constitutional law professor. Uber-liberals, like me, and conservatives wanted a President who would head us in the direction of Sweden, Norway, Finland, etc. We got a president who inherited the biggest mess any president's ever inherited and is trying to wend his way through the spider webs.
I've had it with pundits, politicians, voters and the media for popping off at Obama every time he tries to solve a problem. It's the same kind of group-think that got us into Iraq and called for Shirley Sherrod's head based on misinformation.
I support my President.

Posted by: MNUSA | December 8, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

Long and the short of it is that if they don't cut the deal, taxes go up, unemployment benefits end, and the recovery stalls. Even if the president "fights" and everyone's mad at the Republicans for awhile and his approval soars to...49%? Maybe? If the economy hasn't fully recovered by spring of 2012, no one at all is going to care that everyone hated those durn republicans for three months or so in 2011. There is no way the President wins re-election if the economy is still in trouble during the campaign. And a protracted (or even brief) fight that doesn't wind up extending benefits and means that Americans get a pay cut (by way of a tax hike), will sink whatever meager recovery we could already expect in the first quarter of next year. So, like the President says, he held his nose and got the best deal he could. As a liberal, I'm holding my hand in front of my mouth to keep me from throwing up, but, the guy's right. A deal is better than no deal. I just deeply regret that the narrative has emerged as "Obama rails against dems" as opposed to "Obama calls Republicans out on their deficit hypocrisy."

Posted by: ben_ranklin | December 8, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

@HanSolo (2:12pm), perfectly and succinctly stated!

Posted by: Chip_M | December 8, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

"HanSolo (2:12pm), perfectly and succinctly stated!"

So, how is your little war going? Sure it isn't perfect, but hey, its good, right? Am I catching on?

Posted by: shrink2 | December 8, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm disgusted.
If I wanted a republican president, I'd have voted for the Old Baby-Burner!

Posted by: kase | December 8, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Democrats think Obama fell from outer space. The choice was not Palin v Obama, it was Clintons v Obama.

I think McCain Palin would have beaten Hillary and Bill.

Posted by: shrink2 | December 8, 2010 10:05 PM | Report abuse

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