Lileks is irritated by The One’s irritation here at having to compromise with those darned Republican troglodytes, but given how much he gave away for an unemployment extension — across-the-board tax cuts plus a payroll tax cut plus a lower estate tax rate — he had to give his base something. And a mildly peevish affectation during brief remarks counts as “something” these days, I guess.
Actually, for a guy with such an allegedly profound “messaging” problem, I thought he did a solid job here framing this as a stimulus measure. That’ll help him with centrists in the general election in 2012 (although note Lileks’s point at the link about how this sets up a debate during the campaign on taxes), but the left’s going to melt down over his betrayal of one of his core 2008 promises. In fact, take five minutes and skim through the special reaction round-up the NYT has assembled in the wake of the deal, paying special attention to the items by Dan Schnur and David Corn. Until today, I’ve never seriously thought that the “professional left” would try to primary him — they don’t care enough about Afghanistan to build a challenge on that basis alone — but to betray them on a major campaign pledge and do so by bending to the reviled Republicans might force their hand. It’s not because they necessarily want to or because they think it’d improve their chances at holding the White House, but simply because they feel obliged to flex some muscle in reaction. Exit question: What can he do for them next year to try to get back in their good graces? Change his mind about gay marriage? Go all out on amnesty? His options are limited.