Obama Joins the Opposition

Here is the judgment on the US debt-ceiling deal from Germany’s authoritative Die Zeit:

Als Präsident verloren, als Präsidentschaftskandidat gewonnen – Obama und die Einigung im Schuldenstreit http://j.mp/oHryqr (mh)



That is, chalk up a loss for Obama as president, but a win for him as 2012 presidential candidate.

Why the defeat? Because “the compromise bore the signature of the Tea Party,” even as many among their Congressional representation voted against it out of a conviction that it did not cut spending enough. Still, in view of their intransigence this was the best that the responsible parties in the affair – the president, his Democratic Party, even a few moderate Republicans as might be left – could achieve to avoid the catastrophe of a debt default. (It’s unfortunate that the Die Zeit writer – as usual, unnamed here – either overlooked or just did not mention the 14th Amendment option, which would have defused the whole problem and prevented any future recurrence.)

But: “Whereas the President gave in, the polarized political climate creates new chances for presidential candidate Obama for 2012.” He has firmly captured the decisive middle-ground of American politics, including by the way he showed himself willing to defy his own party to get this compromise done, all of which should gain him votes even from moderate conservatives at the next election. And seizing that middle-ground also put him on top in the Gerechtigkeitsfrage, i.e. the justice/fairness question. The proper way to resolve America’s budget difficulties is both spending cuts and higher taxes, especially on the rich. Polls show voters overwhelmingly are of this opinion. Congress, apparently, is not, but Obama now has the opening to campaign in 2012 even as a sort of opposition politician to gain future opportunities to force this vision through.

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