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The Imperiled Presidency? | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

The Imperiled Presidency?

Editor's Note: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel's column at the WashingtonPost.com.  Read all of Katrina's column here.

Ronald Reagan famously quipped that the Democratic Party left him before he left the party. Like many progressive supporters of Barack Obama, I'm beginning to have the same feeling about this president.

Consider what we've seen since the shellacking Democrats took in the fall elections.

On Afghanistan, the administration has intimated that the 2011 pullout date is "inoperable," with the White House talking 2014 and Gen. David H. Petraeus suggesting decades of occupation. On bipartisanship, the president seems to think that cooperation requires self-abasement. He apologized to the obstructionist Republican leadership for not reaching out, a gesture reciprocated with another poke in the eye. He chose to meet with the hyper-partisan Chamber of Commerce after it ran one of the most dishonest independent campaigns in memory. He appears to be courting Roger Altman, a former investment banker, for his economic team, leavening the Goldman Sachs flavor of his administration with a salty Lehman Brothers veteran.

On the economy, the president has abandoned what Americans are focused on—jobs—to embrace what the Beltway elites care about—deficits. His freeze of federal workers' pay, of more symbolic than deficit-reducing value, only reinforced right-wing tripe: that federal employees are overpaid; that overspending is our problem, as opposed to inane tax cuts for the top end; that we should impose austerity now, instead of working to get the economy going.

Now the not-so-subtle retreats are turning into a rout. The president is touting a NAFTA-like corporate trade deal with South Korea. He appears to be headed toward supporting cuts in Social Security and Medicare and irresponsible reductions in domestic investment. And he's on the verge of kowtowing to Republican bluster and cutting a deal to extend George W. Bush's tax cuts for the rich in exchange (one hopes) for extending unemployment insurance and possibly getting a vote on the New START treaty.

This is political self-immolation...

Editor's Note: Read all of Katrina's column here.

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