More on the strategery

All the TNR bloggers light into him pretty good (and rightly so, in my opinion).  Cohn is the most gentle:

I could make a solid case that this deal, if it holds, would represent a massive defeat for liberals. Expiration of the Bush tax cuts represented the best opportunity for undoing the damage of those acts—for reclaiming the revenue those tax cuts squandered and, as a result, providing the government with enough money to continue funding vital programs. The deal the administration and Republicans were negotiating as of Monday would raise just $600 billion in revenue, which is less than half of what President Obama sought initially…

Could the administration have gotten more revenue by holding out for a better deal? Quite possibly. But could the administration have gotten a lot more revenue? That’s less clear. Administration allies point out that congressional Democrats frequently floated ideas, like extending all tax cuts for incomes below $1 million, that would have generated far less revenue. Meanwhile, the administration managed to get a deal that, despite the revenue, includes no spending cuts whatsoever—on discretionary programs or Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security—even though Republicans had been demanding them.

Tim Noah, less so:

Dear House and Senate Democrats,

Your president has sold you out. A deal will likely be announced today canceling the scheduled income-tax increase on all family income below $450,000, instead of the promised $250,000 threshold, which was already too high

The White House means well, but it has bargained incompetently. As Jonathan Chaitpoints out, any worry on the White House’s part that it will be undercut by Senate Democrats too eager to make an even-worse deal is matched by a well-founded fear on the Senate Democrats’ part that the White House won’t hang tough. And anyway, the president has veto power, for crying out loud! Ezra Klein reports that the Democrats think they can make a deal now, force another tax increase later, and still get Republicans to back down on the debt ceiling. This is delusional. Any Republican who at this point believes Democrats will drive a hard bargain must be judged a fool.

Indeed.  And Noam Scheiber is the harshest (and most on point):

I’ll be blunt: I hate the fiscal-cliff compromise that Mitch McConnell and Joe Biden are hammering out today…

I think the president made a huge mistake by negotiating over what he’d previously said was non-negotiable (namely, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000). Then the White House compounded that mistake by sending Biden to “close” the deal when Harry Reid appeared to give up on it. As a practical matter, this signaled to Republicans that the White House wouldn’t walk away from the bargaining table, allowing the GOP to keep extracting concessions into the absolute final hours before the deadline…

Instead, the emerging deal will reinforce the convictions that have made the GOP such a toxic presence in Washington. If Obama will cave even when he’s got all the leverage, when won’t he cave? Never, the Republicans will assume. If Obama’s too scared to stop bargaining and let the public decide who’s right in this instance, when the polls appear to back him, then he must think our position is more popular than he lets on. Suffice it to say, these are not sentiments you want at the front of Republicans’ mind as they prepare to shake him down over the debt limit in another two months. The White House continues to maintain that it simply won’t negotiate over the limit. After this deal, why would any Republican ever believe this? I certainly don’t, and I desperately want to.

Now, let’s not forget Obama is a very smart man, and a skilled politician.  I think he’s earned some of the benefit of the doubt.  That said, I do think it is somewhat clear that among his political flaws is an overly strong desire to be seen as a bipartisan dealmaker and the most reasonable man in the room.  Maybe he’s right and all the liberal bloggers are wrong.  But on this one, I’m definitely with all the liberal bloggers.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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