The debt deal and Obama's 2012 problem

Obama’s presidency may last 17 or 65 more months, but it has been irreversibly neutered by two historic blunders made at its outset. It defined itself by health-care reform most Americans did not desire, rather than by economic recovery. And it allowed, even encouraged, self-indulgent liberal majorities in Congress to create a stimulus that confirmed conservatism’s portrayal of liberalism as an undisciplined agglomeration of parochial appetites. This sterile stimulus discredited stimulus as a policy.

Obama’s 2012 problem is that he dare not run as a liberal but cannot run from his liberalism. The left’s narrative for 2012 is that by not offering another stimulus, Washington is being dangerously frugal. This, even though his stimulus — including cash for clunkers, cash for caulkers, dollars for dishwashers (yes, there actually were money showers for home improvements and greener appliances), etc. — led downhill…

America may be one-third of the way through a lost decade — or worse, toward a lost national identity. So, Republicans have their 2012 theme: “Is this the best we can do?”