To beat the Republicans, Obama might follow the example of a Republican, George W. Bush. Whatever you think of what he did, he knew how to get it done: by simplifying his message and repeating it, ad nauseam, until he got the result he was after.
Obama instead tends to give a speech and move along to the next topic. This is why he is forever making “pivots” back to the economy, or to health care. But the way to pressure Congress is to be President One Note.
In the debt-limit fight, Obama already has his note: He will not negotiate over the full faith and credit of the United States. That’s as good a theme as any; it matters less what the message is than that he delivers it consistently.
The idea, White House officials explained to me, is to avoid getting into a back-and-forth over taxes, spending and entitlement programs. “We’re right on the merits, but I don’t think we want to argue on the merits,” one said. “Our argument is not that our argument is better than theirs; it’s that theirs is stupid.”
This is a clean message: Republicans are threatening to tank the economy — through a shutdown or, more likely, through a default on the debt — and Obama isn’t going to negotiate with these hostage-takers.