Thursday, December 9, 2010

Getting Weaker and Weaker

Paleoconservative Daniel Larison writes about 'the deal' on his blog from the American Conservative:
The most tiresome response to this deal I have seen is the claim that it somehow helps Obama with “the center” because the left is unhappy about it. It seems clear to me that he has put himself in the position of being identified with the interests of the wealthy and powerful yet again, which has been one of the administration’s problems for two years. Something like two-thirds of the public favored letting the top rate go up, and that includes the precious voters of “the center,” and Obama has now effectively taken the very unpopular side of this debate.

Too-clever-by-half interpretations of this hold that Obama is playing a cunning long-term game. However, it is never cunning to abandon a core commitment, disillusion one’s most active supporters, and cede an opponent everything he wants from a relative position of strength in the hopes that the opponent will later be easier to outmaneuver after he has become even stronger. “Centrist” and conservative pundits who have been urging Obama to capitulate on this issue are rather like Gollum urging Frodo on into Shelob’s lair. “No, really, this is the right way to go!” Obama’s defenders on this are reduced to saying that the lair could have been a lot worse. Provided that he isn’t eaten by the spider, all will be well.

It’s worth noting that the argument for voting on START now contradicts the positive spin some Obama supporters are trying to put on the deal. The administration has correctly argued for voting on the treaty now. This is not just because it is important and should be ratified as soon as possible, but because they assume that five more Republican votes are more than enough to kill it outright. They take for granted that everything, including a treaty that has overwhelming consensus support, will be far more difficult to move through the Senate next year, and obviously the new Republican House will be even more combative. Everything gets much harder for Obama over the next years, and he is already giving in to the opposition before the new Congress has met.

People who insist that Obama is playing a long game haven’t taken account of the fact that, politically speaking, Obama has been steadily losing the long game for most of the last year. They are also overlooking the reality that Obama and the Democrats frittered away their advantages for much of the year, which hardly inspires confidence in anyone that they are going to become more effective once they are weaker.

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