Clive Crook on Why 'Intransigence' Wins With the debt ceiling deal in the works, Clive Crooks writes in the Financial Times that Obama will be declared, maybe unfairly, the loser because he acted sanely in the face of Republican "intransigence." "Mr Obama defied the Democratic base," he writes, "accommodated the GOP in the national interest, and stands ready to be denounced (not least by his own party) as a weakling. To the recklessly intransigent go the spoils--not something to fill one with optimism about America's future." Still, Obama found himself in this position in part because he allowed health care to pass against the wishes of most Americans, helping create a Republican majority in the House of Representatives. Once again with fiscal policy, as with Libya and health care, Obama "lead from behind," timidly supporting a liberal spending plan to continue to raise spending before finally allowing Republicans to dictate the terms of debate. Instead, he should have suggested from the start that long-term borrowing must be curtailed with spending cuts and tax reform. "By leading from the front, Mr Obama might have carried public opinion." Crook says. "Instead, he ... stood aside and let things happen."
Jonathan Cohn Asks How Obama Could Have Done Better Faced with a deal that is anathema to liberals, Jonathan Cohn asks in The New Republic "What would I have done instead?" He says the outline of the debt-ceiling deal now being forged has been clear for a long time because Obama long ago lost his leverage when it became clear that Republicans were willing to risk default and he was not. The deal, says Cohn, does not solve the job crisis. The first round of $900 billion in cuts may reduce some waste, but it will make it more difficult to find easy savings in the next more severe round which will cause America pain. "Pain means more people eating tainted food, more people breathing polluted air, more people pulling their kids out of college, and more people losing their homes--in other words, the hardships people suffer when government can't do an adequate job of looking out for their interests," he says. His ideas for how Obama could have improved his performance: "Why didn't he spend more time criticizing Republicans for their values and priorities rather than trying to find accommodations with them? Why didn't he play up the possibility of the 14th Amendment, if only to increase his leverage?" Obama spent his time acting like the adult in the room, but his decision to begin by negotiating with an opposition that refused to compromise brought few political rewards.