(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais.)
We have on our hands a President Groundhog Day. Tom Tomorrow nails it in this recent cartoon, as he so often does: regularly, and regularly and regularly, Obama initiates a negotiation; finds his negotiating partner maneuvering him into an absurd impasse; then “negotiates” his way out of a crisis with a settlement deferring reckoning (in the former of further negotiation) to some specified time in the future, at which point he somehow imagines negotiation will finally, at long last, work—at which point the next precipice arrives, and he lets his negotiating partners defer the reckoning once more.
First, it was his first failure to repeal the Bush tax cuts. He promised he’d really fight to get it done next year (he didn’t).
Next, in the summer of 2011, stung by his self-proclaimed Tea Party “shellacking” in the midterm elections (compare that to Ronald Reagan’s radically un-conciliatory response to his own shellacking in 1982), he promised to negotiate a deal to reduce the debt by $4 trillion. Then, once he lured John Boehner to the table, the Republican announced as his terms holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage by threatening not to raise the debt ceiling. The president reportedly thought he and Boehner were working together—“to freeze out their respective extremists and make the kind of historic deal that no one really thought possible anymore—bigger than when Reagan and Tip O’Neill overhauled the tax code in 1986 or when Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich passed welfare reform a decade later.” He also believed, somehow, that Boehner could whip the gang of congressional lunatics he supposedly “led” into obedience. Silly Obama, who ended up with…this year’s debacle, as Tom Tomorrow’s dialogue between Bohner and Obama relates. December: “The arbitrary deadline is almost upon us! We’re about to go over the fiscal cliff!” (Bohner: “Who could have forseen it?) January: “Postonponing the threat of sequestration will buy us a little more time…before the next arbitrary deadline!” (“Sounds like a plan to me!”)
That time he went into those negotiation, of course, with four aces in his hand: the sovereign will of the American electorate, following a comfortable re-election victory borne aloft on the campaign promise to fight for tax hikes for those making over $250,000. Somehow the final disposition ended us up with a tax hike only for those making over $450,000 and left 82 percent of the Bush tax cuts in place permanently. A friend of mine called it the biggest betrayal of a winning coalition by a president since LBJ ran on not sending our boys to Vietnam.