It’s time for another pass-the-popcorn moment in the unfolding drama that Barack Obama unleashed by cutting a deal with Republicans on tax rates. Both sides gave ground on hotly-defended principles, and neither side is entirely happy at the result. But Politico argues that Obama himself may have sought out a fight with the progressive wing on Capitol Hill, and that sources within the White House are happy to have this split:
Obama’s advisers insist he didn’t go out of his way to pick a fight with fellow Democrats when he cut his highly controversial deal with Republicans to temporarily extend all Bush-era tax cuts earlier this week. But if the deal served to distance Obama not only from them, but the entire partisan culture of Washington, all the better, they say.
Differentiating Obama from congressional Democrats “was a positive byproduct” of the tax cut deal, a person close to Obama told POLITICO.
“Compared to these guys, the president looks mature and pragmatic,” added the official.
Well, he did, until Obama decided to call his opponents (the Republicans in this case) “hostage takers.” Not only was that amateurish and petulant, it was the opposite of pragmatic. After all, this was his deal as well as the GOP’s, and most expected Obama to frame it as a positive step forward — if not on tax policy, then at least as an attempt to defuse “the entire partisan culture,” as Glenn Thrush puts it. Instead, Obama blamed Republicans for the deal he made and made it an even more partisan culture as a result.
But that was just the appetizer. According to Thrush’s source, Obama decided to cut a deal with Mitch McConnell three weeks ago after meeting with his own party’s leadership team from Congress. That meeting told Obama that current leadership on Capitol Hill was useless:
One administration official told POLITICO that Obama was so dispirited after his Nov. 18th meeting with the Democratic leadership that he decided, then and there, to place his faith in direct talks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“The point is the House and Senate [leadership] has proven they are incapable of getting things done,” the official said.
That would be Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid — the two people most responsible for shoving his ObamaCare through a reluctant Congress and down the throats of an angry American electorate. Both, and especially Pelosi, locked the GOP out of any real role in shaping legislation or any real access to the agenda over the last two years. Both retained their leadership posts despite a disastrous midterm cycle, an outcome at least tacitly supported by Obama himself. Obama is suddenly shocked, shocked to discover that the pair doesn’t play well in the sandbox with others?
At last, Obama has found common ground with the rest of America, which has no confidence in Pelosi or Reid, either. His attempts to distance himself from progressive Democrats will be problematic since he is obviously a progressive himself, but also because calling his opponents “hostage takers” and his allies incompetent is less like bipartisanship and more like immaturity. That still leaves him eligible for the Captain Louis Renault award: