Monday, August 1, 2011

Aftermath Of A Terrible Deal: Why Didn't The President Fight Harder?

From the start of the debt ceiling negotiations, President Obama was far too ready to compromise on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as on large spending cuts and small revenue increases. If only we ended up with even small revenue increases instead of none at all. That's right, not one penny from the wealthy beneficiaries of the Bush tax cuts. We didn't even end the tax loopholes for jet owners!

Obama's strategy was to appear above the fray and make television appearances and phone calls. He did not take his message on the road and continually lambaste the Republicans for holding the country hostage over a debt ceiling increase, which should have passed as a simple acknowledgement of expenses already appropriated by Congress. Obama also never threatened to invoke the 14th Amendment. A deal that involves only cuts–sure to hurt seniors, students, the poor and the middle class–and no new tax revenue is a deal won by the Republicans. Indeed, they framed the debate all along. From an analysis by Jeff Zeleny of the NY Times:

...the fine print of the agreement makes clear that Republicans received more of what they demanded than did Mr. Obama, who acquiesced in his initial call for a balanced mix of spending cuts and new revenues, despite repeatedly trying to seize the bully pulpit to build support for his argument.

For many liberals, this concession — and the president’s unwillingness to make a more full-throated case for greater action to address joblessness and protect other Democratic priorities — could undermine legislative support for the deal and increase the challenge of motivating voters in 2012.

The White House and the Senate may be controlled by Democrats, but the debate unfolded squarely on Republican turf. It is yet another sign of how the country’s politics have changed since Mr. Obama’s term began...

...In recent days, advisers made the decision to keep Mr. Obama out of public view, reaching out to legislators by telephone instead.

...[Obama] confined his arguments largely to televised appearances inside the White House — from the Cabinet Room to the East Room to the press briefing room — rarely venturing outside Washington to take the debate directly to the public.

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