webermpolarisnet 30 Jul 2011 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 increase). 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 office.