In the sordid mess leading up to this week’s sequester, the NY Times editorial board diagnoses part of the problem:
The White House strategy on the sequester was built around a familiar miscalculation about Republicans. It assumed that, in the end, they would be reasonable and negotiate a realistic alternative to indiscriminate cuts. Because the reductions hurt defense programs long held sacrosanct by Republicans, the White House thought it had leverage that would reduce the damage to the domestic programs favored by Democrats.
Obama chose excellent election staffs throughout his political career.
He did not choose competent political strategists. He himself is not a competent political strategist. His team spent 18 months on health insurance legislation, during which he gave away concession after concession without getting anything of value in return. Why? Because he wanted a Grand Bargain as part of his political legacy. One result of this shortsightedness was the Republican wave election of 2010, when state legislatures and governorships flipped from Democratic to Republican control. The Democratic base didn’t think Obama had done much for them for 2 years, so they didn’t show up to vote. The biggest problem with this: your average Republican wasn’t elected; the far right-wing fringe of the Republican Party was: enter the Teabaggers to the US Congress, governorships, and state legislatures.
Obama’s team made multiple deals on financial items: the debt ceiling (Republicans don’t want to pay for the bills they charged up), the Bush tax cuts (expired after 1 extension), and the 2011 deal to initiate blind spending cuts because the Republican-led House of Representatives can’t execute their Constitutional duty to pass an annual budget on time. Hence the leading NYT paragraph.
Time after time after time, the Teabagging Republicans have refused to negotiate or work with President Obama or Democrats. How many times will it take before Democrats take the Teabaggers at their word: despite the trillions of debt run up by their party in the 2000s, they won’t allow Obama to run up any more debt, regardless of the cost to the US economy or its citizens. Well, it will take at least one more time, apparently.
No more Grand Bargains, Mr. President.