For reasons I have discussed before, I welcome the tax deal, which the Senate looks ready to back and which the House most likely will come around to, however grudgingly. Key question: Is the White House now committed to a Clintonian triangulation strategy, or is this pact a one-off? I discuss this in a new column for the FT. The answer, I think, is that Obama himself doesn't know yet.

Barack Obama continues to hesitate over a decision from which there may be no retreat and which could seal the fate of his presidency. Does he stand up to congressional Democrats, regain the esteem of the middle of the country and get re-elected in 2012? Or does he fight for progressive principles, further alienate the independent voters who switched to the Republican party in the midterm elections and make do with a single term?

You might think the compromise he just struck with Republicans to extend current tax rates for all Americans - rather than raising them for high-income households, as he previously advocated - settles the matter. It should have, but it hasn't.