He's Back! Obama finally bows to reality..

TV Arts

You know how when you have the hiccups and then they go away, for a 
while it feels weirdly unsettling not to hiccup? That's kind of what 
it's like when Barack Obama, the most ubiquitous president in American 
history, disappears from the TV screen for 3½ days, as he did this week. 

Hic! This morning he was back at last, and the substance of his message 
had finally changed. Gone were the usual attacks on "corporate jet 
owners" and "millionaires and billionaires"--which is to say that at 
long last, he relinquished his demand that Congress enact what he once 
called "massive, job-killing tax increases" as part of a 
deficit-reducing bill. He offered only the merest hint at tax hikes: "If 
we need to put in place some kind of enforcement mechanism to hold us 
all accountable for making these reforms, I'll support that too if it's 
done in a smart and balanced way."

Obama was throwing his support behind Senate Majority Leader Harry 
Reid's compromise effort--a good example of getting out in front of the 
parade and pretending to lead it. Until last night, House Republicans 
seemed to have the initiative. A vote had been scheduled on Speaker John 
Boehner's plan, which would cut more deeply than Reid's and would also 
require another debt-ceiling increase before the 2012 election.

That latter provision was Obama's biggest sticking point. At the very 
beginning of his brief statement this morning, he complained that the 
Boehner plan "would force us to relive this crisis in just a few short 
months, holding our economy captive to Washington politics once again." 
Replace the phrase "our economy" with "my re-election campaign," and you 
can see what he means.

But last night came and went without a vote on the Boehner plan. 
Apparently enough Tea Party Republicans balked that the speaker was 
unable to assemble the requisite 217 votes. Intraparty negotiations 
ensued, and word is that a new version of the Boehner plan is likely to 
pass the House tonight, one that makes the second debt-limit increase 
contingent on Congress's proposing a balanced budget amendment to the 
Constitution. That is an unrealistic expectation, since that would 
require two-thirds votes in both houses.

By default, then, it looks as though the Reid plan, or some modified 
version of it, is going to be the means by which the standoff is 
resolved--a compromise that meets the most important demands of both the 
president (borrowing authority through 2013) and the Republicans (no tax 

If so, that will represent a small strategic victory for Republicans: 
They will have achieved some spending cuts and defeated Obama's 
audacious effort to raise taxes. This wouldn't have happened without the 
Tea Party types, but they probably would have gained more had enough of 
them been willing to settle for the Bohener plan to pass it yesterday.

What's really at stake in all this, as Charles Krauthammer notes, is 
something that cannot be resolved before the next election: "a great 
four-year national debate on the size and reach of government, the 
future of the welfare state, indeed, the nature of the social contract 
between citizen and state":

	The distinctive visions of the two parties--social-democratic 
	vs. limited-government--have underlain every debate on every 
	issue since Barack Obama's inauguration. . . .

	The sausage-making may be unsightly, but the problem is not 
	that Washington is broken, that ridiculous ubiquitous cliche. 
	The problem is that these two visions are in competition, 
	and the definitive popular verdict has not yet been rendered.
	We're only at the midpoint. Obama won a great victory in 2008 
	that he took as a mandate to transform America toward 
	European-style social democracy. The subsequent 
	counterrevolution delivered to that project a staggering 
	rebuke in November 2010. Under our incremental system, 
	however, a rebuke delivered is not a mandate conferred. 
	That awaits definitive resolution, the rubber match of 
	November 2012. . . .

	Lincoln is reputed to have said: I hope to have God on my 
	side, but I must have Kentucky. I don't know whether 
	conservatives have God on their side (I keep getting sent 
	to His voice mail), but I do know that they don't have 
	Kentucky--they don't have the Senate, they don't have the 
	White House. And under our constitutional system, you cannot 
	govern from one house alone.

Fortunately, at least on domestic matters you cannot govern from the 
White House alone either, a reality to which President Obama finally 
yielded this morning. The president perseverated almost as long as the 
Tea Party representatives did, which is astonishing when you consider 
that as president, he has far more to lose than anyone if efforts to 
resolve the standoff fail and the result is an economic disaster.

Contrary to the ludicrous media narrative of Obama as the "adult in the 
room," he has been the mirror image of the Tea Party representatives, 
employing extreme tactics in the impossible pursuit of total victory. 
The actual adults in the room have been the congressional 
leaders--Boehner, Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell--all 
of whom have recognized all along that compromise is a necessity under 
current circumstances.

The Obama presidency has provided an excellent example of the dangers of 
entrusting an immature and inexperienced politician with great political 
power. The same is true of Congress's Tea Partiers, though to a 
considerably lesser extent, since an individual congressman is not 
responsible for an entire branch of government.

Time may be on the Tea Party's side. It's possible that, come 2013, all 
three elected divisions of the federal government will be controlled by 
experienced pols who agree with, or at least do not actively oppose, the 
limited-government agenda. That doesn't seem possible on the 
social-democratic side. Even in the unlikely event that Democrats hold 
the Senate and White House and win back the House, the president will 
still be Barack Obama, who so far has shown no signs of maturing in 
Dream on. Republicans have lost the senior vote and never had the black 
or hispanic vote. Even gerrymandering won't save them this November.
Yeah, we saw how that worked out last year during the elections...

Keep drinking the koolaid.