Larison makes the case:
The most tiresome response to this deal I have seen is the claim that it somehow helps Obama with “the center” because the left is unhappy about it. It seems clear to me that he has put himself in the position of being identified with the interests of the wealthy and powerful yet again, which has been one of the administration’s problems for two years. Something like two-thirds of the public favored letting the top rate go up, and that includes the precious voters of “the center,” and Obama has now effectively taken the very unpopular side of this debate.
Too-clever-by-half interpretations of this hold that Obama is playing a cunning long-term game. However, it is never cunning to abandon a core commitment, disillusion one’s most active supporters, and cede an opponent everything he wants from a relative position of strength in the hopes that the opponent will later be easier to outmaneuver after he has become even stronger. “Centrist” and conservative pundits who have been urging Obama to capitulate on this issue are rather like Gollum urging Frodo on into Shelob’s lair. “No, really, this is the right way to go!” Obama’s defenders on this are reduced to saying that the lair could have been a lot worse. Provided that he isn’t eaten by the spider, all will be well.