“Riding the lamest of ducks, President Obama just won the Triple Crown. He fulfilled (1) his most important economic priority, passage of Stimulus II, a.k.a. the tax cut deal (the perfect pre-re-election fiscal sugar high – the piper gets paid in 2013 and beyond); (2) his most important social policy objective, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell”; and (3) his most cherished (achievable) foreign policy goal, ratification of the New START treaty with Russia…
“The great liberal ascendancy of 2008, destined to last 40 years (predicted James Carville), lasted less than two. Yet, the great Republican ascendancy of 2010 lasted less than two months. Republicans will enter the 112th Congress with larger numbers but no longer with the wind – the overwhelming Nov. 2 repudiation of Obama’s social-democratic agenda – at their backs.
“‘Harry Reid has eaten our lunch,’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham, lamenting his side’s ‘capitulation’ in the lame-duck session. Yes, but it was less Harry than Barry. Obama came back with a vengeance. His string of lame-duck successes is a singular political achievement. Because of it, the epic battles of the 112th Congress begin on what would have seemed impossible just one month ago – a level playing field.”
“Washington has rushed to declare President Obama a political Lazarus based on an active and successful lame duck session of Congress that saw tax rates extended for two years, the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and will likely on Wednesday add the ratification of a nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.
“But Obama’s accomplishments are likely to be mere foothills compared to the heights that the president and Congress will be forced to scale in the months ahead. The impact of the lame duck on his reelection prospects in 2012 will almost certainly be small…
“‘I think Obama is in better shape ad the end of December than he was at the mid-point in November — but he’s still not in particularly strong shape,’ [Peter] Wehner said by e-mail. ‘And unlike Bill Clinton, who was free of HillaryCare (because it was never passed into law), Barack Obama is stuck with ObamaCare. And that, I think, will hurt him quite a lot.'”
“The sources of the left’s delight — repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and ratification of the New START treaty — are irrelevant to the vast majority of Americans. Voters care, as the Democrats should have but refused to learn during the referendum of 2010 (the midterms results were, one wit cracked, ‘a restraining order” on liberal statism), about the economy, jobs and the growth of government. These are far and away the most important issues in every credible survey, and will be the focus of the Republicans’ 2011 agenda…
“But liberal media mavens have a narrative that resists ‘bad news’ (i.e. scandals, polling, the Tea Party movement) that suggests trouble for the Obama administration. They also confuse legislative achievement with political success. If passing stuff was the secret to a political comeback, then the Democrats after ObamaCare and the stimulus plan would have had the greatest year ever.”
“Democrats and their partisans in the press complained about Washington being broken only at those times when their agenda was imperiled. Vice President Biden’s statement, for example, came after the election of Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown took away the Democrats’ filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Just a few weeks later, when Barack Obama signed the national health care bill into law, Biden was all smiles.
“Now, after the lame-duck session, Democratic leaders are happy again. But it’s only temporary. As the new year approaches, get ready for a new round of Democratic Washington-is-broken grumbling.
“With a significantly smaller, 53-seat majority in the Senate, Democrats will no longer be able to pass contentious legislation all by themselves or with just one or two Republican votes. On the other side, Republicans, with 47 votes, will no longer have to achieve perfect unity to sustain a filibuster and stop objectionable legislation. They’ll be able to lose three, four, five, even six members of the GOP caucus and still stop a bill.”
“‘There’s much for them to be angst-ridden about,’ McConnell said with a chuckle. ‘If they think it’s bad now, wait till next year.'”