Yglesias joins the fray:
The White House’s failure to engage in a maximum, 100 percent push for each item on the Obama agenda doesn’t demonstrate that it’s a White House that’s time and again betrayed progressive values. It demonstrates that even though in each case you can always do more, you tend to decide to leave some arrows in the quiver because there are so many legislative fights and you can’t just be going nuclear thirty times a year.
Now it is true that I think one problem with this system is that it allows the White House to be deliberately ambiguous about what positions it supports, secure in the knowledge that “the votes aren’t there” for certain things and therefore saying you support them is a freebie. That’s a bad thing, but it doesn’t change the fact that this option is usually available precisely when it’s true that the votes aren’t there.