Thursday, January 03, 2013

Andrew Sullivan believes he now recognizes President Obama's long game.

Courtesy of the Daily Beast:  

The left often talked of the fiscal cliff as if it were only win-win for Obama. It wasn't, in my view. He faced two dangers: of seeming unable to come up with a compromise (which is integral to his appeal) and of seeing the US economy sink under the weight of an imprudent and drastic reduction in demand. As Josh Marshall has noted, Obama always wanted a deal. No president wants to kick off his second term with a double-dip recession. He got half of a deal that will not have as drastic an effect as the full cliff-divers wanted. 

Does the promised debt-ceiling hostage-taking by the GOP render all this strategy moot? Maybe. But it seems to me that the GOP has hurt itself so far since the election on fiscal matters - appearing, especially last week, as a herd of feral, foam-flecked cats. I don't see their threatening to ruin America's credit unless they get to cut Medicare by $500 billion over a decade as a particularly strong political hand. Any party triggering a self-imposed credit crisis as the economy recovers will not be rewarded politically. On that, especially after 2011, the president has the upper hand. Americans do not like monkeying around with the national credit rating as a way to cut medical care for grandma. 

More to the point, the GOP has yet to even lay out the details of its proposed entitlement cuts (and campaigned in part against them). One way out would be for both parties to focus on cutting the Pentagon bloat - but that's not going to happen any time soon. And so I can see revenue-raising tax reform returning as a way to alleviate some of the political pain on both sides. 

In other words, I can see Obama's logic here. What he's getting - which is a gradual shift toward more fiscal responsibility, with key protections for the working poor and the unemployed in place - is all he really wants right now. Like many of Obama's incremental achievements, you can sometimes miss the forest for the trees. We have the biggest tax hike in decades - without a sudden recession. And we have huge, painful spending cuts looming unless new revenue is found through tax reform. The end result - for all its unseemly messiness right now - may still be a sane, graduated fiscal readjustment as the economy recovers. The sequester can be back-loaded a little to find that elusive sweet spot between structural fiscal rebalancing and economic growth. And we could even clean up the tax code a little. 

It's not great, but it will do. Sometimes, the little advances are preferable under certain circumstances to big breakthroughs. And Obama has to face a rabid Republican House probably for his next four years. They self-destructed on Plan B. They will almost certainly have to swallow hard and vote for big tax increases in the next day or so [and, in fact, now have].

Like most of you I have also been inundated with e-mails and text messages from those on the Left tearing at their hair and rending their clothing in frustration over what they see as Obama's acquiescence in the fiscal cliff deal, but  if I have learned ANYTHING about this President it is that he rarely focuses on short term victories and is usually thinking several moves ahead of his opponents.

That is essentially what Sullivan is pointing out with his article, and I have to say that I agree with his point of view. I firmly believe that in the end Barack Obama will go down in history as one of the greatest President's this country has ever produces, and I also bet that there will be a lot of "aha" moments for most of us looking back at this from the future that we are just too close to the political sausage making to see right now.


  1. Anonymous4:28 AM

    Gryphen, I am also perplexed by the liberals who are complaining about the deal. They are, imo, as bad as the Teabaggers with their "take no prisoners, make no compromise" approach and if we're not careful, we're on our way to a left-leaning Tea Party that believes in science but is no less stupid and uninformed about the way government works.

    1. Anonymous4:56 AM

      This is a false equivalence. I am so tired of right-wingers projecting all their faults on the rest of us.
      And by the way, it was and is a bad deal, which is what you get when compromising with people who are insane.
      David, Baltimore

    2. Anonymous5:16 AM

      The progressives are just as bad as the teabaggers. They think it has to be ALL of their way, never negotiate, or compromise.
      But the progessives and teabagers fail to see that a great leader has to negotiate and maybe even compromise sometimes, or else we will have a dictatorship.
      Both the progressives and teabaggers think if they do not get their unicorns, then the President has failed.
      I am speaking about the extremes of the Democratic party, when I talk about these progressives. They disparage President Obama all the time, and they were instrumental in costing President Obama votes in this last election.

    3. Anonymous5:21 AM

      Have you noticed that Bill Clinton did not get the disrespect from fellow Dems, as President Obama gets, even though Clinton negotiated with the Repubs, too. I truly think a lot of it is racial.

    4. In my opinion, it's ALL racial...

    5. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is president. Obama? Two eyes and twenty-twenty.

    6. Anonymous9:16 AM

      Duncan6:32 AM

      In my opinion, it's ALL racial...''

      Yeah, you're right. Carter and Clinton did not even receive this level of disrespect and maltreatment as President has received, not only from Repubs, but from Dems, as well. So I know it is not about being a Dem only, it has to be racial, too.

  2. Virginia Voter4:52 AM

    Agreed. In my opinion, the firebaggers are just as looney as their right wingnut counterparts, believing that Obama is the corporatist anti Christ who should be ignoring that fact the he has a GOP House majority and tax the rich at 75%. The left wing congressmen who voted against the fiscal cliff deal have no solutions, and just whine and complain that they don't get their way. It is partly the fault of the fire baggers that we have the gerrymandered House we will suffer under for the next 8-10 years. They didn't show up in 2010 because they didn't get single payer health care, the closing of Guantanamo , and all their other demands met fast enough, and now we suffer the consequences.

  3. Paul - Minnesota4:55 AM

    Ugh. I like your blog, Gryphen, yet Andrew Sullivan.


    I'm a liberal and feel it's okay to give credit to what the POTUS can do. President Obama is doing the best he can do with a hostile GOP/same corporate tea.

    I also blame more congressional blue dog Democrats for acting like republicans and not getting behind the POTUS more often.

    I'm also grateful for Driftglass going after Andrew Sullivan and other DC professional mainstream media types at his blog and podcast.

    Also, I'm not a homophobe, I'm also a gay man who gags at Andrew Sullivan for all the times he's been wrong and points fingers at his needed enemy, the left, to make his, it ain't him, it's others, blame them, in his typical fashion. Continually blame the left as it's easier to point and blame than for him to say sorry and own his past for all the times he's been wrong in the past.

    1. Anonymous7:18 AM

      Don't worry, Andy is going behind a pay wall and will lose so many readers it will be amazing if he can survive. Good riddance to bad "journalism" as far as I am concerned.

    2. I haven't read Sullivan since he went apesh.t after the 1st debate. His No 1 interest is Sullivan. He is also a republican who expects the President to be the same. He became known to many via ripping into Palin when on TV with Bill Maher. He thinks he can make a living by people paying to read his blog - will be interesting to see if it works - but I have my doubts. Here is a MUCH better discussion on the President and his skills

      Michael has always supported the President and his skills - doesn't run hot/cold like Sullivan.

  4. Olivia5:08 AM

    I totally agree. I think that everyone is looking at what happens this second and the next, and no further. We have become conditioned to this brainless way of dealing with things and once again, I have to say, I am thrilled to have the grownup in charge and thinking things through.

  5. Anonymous5:08 AM

    While his critics are playing checkers, President Obama is playing chess.

  6. Anonymous5:20 AM

    Not "Tripp and I," but "me and Tripp." SMH.

    Note that they use a pre "jaw-realignment" photo. LOL.

  7. Anonymous5:36 AM

    Obama is playing chess at the golf course in Hawaii?

    1. Really? IS that all you've got?

      Golf playing? You know, like EVERY SINGLE President has been known to do?

      No wonder you guys keep having your ass handed to you.

    2. Anonymous8:33 AM

      Would it be better if he had a heart-attack like fat addict Limbaugh who enjoyed socialized medicine after?

    3. Anonymous9:44 AM

      Anonymous5:36 AM
      '''Obama is playing chess at the golf course in Hawaii?

      President Obama has been back in Washington since the morning of Dec. 27th.
      So you need to keep up with what's going on.

  8. Anonymous5:42 AM

    AND in MY IMO, people who equate strong progressives with teabaggers are just as stupid as the teabaggers. There IS no equivalence between these two groups. Whatever game Obama is playing , he is NOT a progressive. He extended the Patriot Act and increased it's scope. He did NOTHING to punish the banks directly responsible for the financial crisis at a time when he had the whole country behind him. He has appointed former Monsanto lobbyists to key position in the FDA. His health care plan was a virtual giveaway to big insurance, and he never appeared on the Hill to intervene and give feedback. I am tired of the chess metaphor too. I voted for him twice and i WANT to believe in him, but HE will be directly responsible for cementing the many actions that have moved this country so far to the right. And i agree with the poster who detests Andrew Sullivan. One CANNOT switch positions mid-stream--especially when he was so virulently on the other side for so long---without apologizing and appearing at least a little introspective.He's a brash egotistical opportunist. Kind of like "drown the gov't in the bathtub" Chris Christie and Peter King who are now howling for gov't help. Hypocrites. Just because a glimmer of sanity emerges when THEIR interests are at stake, does NOT mean they should be ---even acknowledged, much less extolled. People are saying "They should "just jump to the Dems?" Yeah right. People are SO gullible and easily impressed.

    1. Progressive hearts are in the right place, but they are as recalcitrant, short-sighted and petulant as their righty counterparts, the teabagged.

    2. Anonymous7:32 AM

      "Progressive hearts are in the right place." How absurdly patronizing. AGAIN you equate Progressives and Teabaggers. They are NOT counterparts, but what an effective right wing tool. The false equivalency has served these monsters very very well. Because some of us don't worship at Obama's shrine and make excuses for everything he does, we are Teabagger equivalents? As "recalcitrant" as they? Not the way I see it. In MY observation, the country has moved irrevocably and extremely to the right. If what you say were true, we would at LEAST have stayed in the middle. Go ahead and enable the compromisers though. They are tenacious and dedicated and disciplined and organized. And they have the "don't rock the boat" contingent on their side. Would that we HAD been as "recalcitrant and petulant" as they are, we might not have given away the store. A very very very dangerous argument. Unless, of course, one is a plant or secretly longing for a theocratic plutocracy.

    3. Anonymous9:34 AM

      Anonymous5:42 AM

      ''AND in MY IMO, people who equate strong progressives with teabaggers are just as stupid as the teabaggers.''

      Everyone has the right to their opinion. And my opinion is, progressives are just as bad as teabaggers. Both only see WHAT THEY WANT. Both DO NOT WANT TO COMPROMISE. They are both extremists. ALL OR NOTHING for these folks. They don't understand that a leader has to compromise sometime, or else we will have a dictator.

    4. His health care plan was a virtual giveaway to big insurance …

      … except that a very hefty percentage (80 or 85, depending) of what they take in in premiums has to be spent on actual medical care, leaving not very much at all for overhead and profit. According to the secretary of Health and Human Services over a billion dollars has been returned to customers since this provision kicked in. Think about this "virtual giveaway to big insurance" for a bit.

    5. Anonymous9:53 AM

      To: Anonymous7:32 AM

      Progressives do more damage to the Dem party than the teabaggers do.
      Many Dem voters were paying close attention to the progressives anti-Obama rhetoric, and I am sure it cost President Obama many votes.

      If President Obama had not been such a strong candidate, he would have lost even more votes, because of progressives rhetoric. So do you guys think Romney would have been a better choice, had you caused President Obama the election?
      So I don't do call progressives.

    6. hedgewytch10:09 AM

      Well guess what? I'm a progressive too. And I've been disappointed by many of the same things you are. BUT I knew that Obama is NOT a progressive. He is a centrist. 40 years ago he probably would have been a Republican. So when he was elected I understood that his priorities weren't the progressive priorities and that even it it were, with the shape of Congress as it stood (and stands) there would be no way to get those things done. Instead he worked on the most necessary tasks - like keeping the country from a depression.

      So IMO, if you are upset that much of the progressive agenda was not able to be met, or even addressed, I do believe that is your own mistake in believing Obama would do/or be able to accomplish those things right off the bat in his first term. Unrealistic expectations.

    7. Anonymous10:50 AM

      Well---I never believed Obama was a progressive or that he was going to get much accomplished in his first term. I vote for him because he is pro-choice; ideally, for me, Jill Stein or Rocky Anderson would have been viable candidates. I still contend that it is NOT productive for progressives to meekly sit back and not question Obama on anything. That is what Axelrod who called us the "professional left" would have us do. No. I despise some of the things Obama has done---Monsanto, surrounding himself with Wall Street guys from the start,strengthening the Patriot Act, etc. So because I am a Democrat and a progressive, i am just supposed to sit back and shut up because we have a Republican president who calls himself a Democrat?? I don't think so. That's what we have done that has gotten us to this miserable place. Don't rock the boat. Don't be anti-American. Don't be strident. Don't appear unreasonable. Be grateful for the crumbs. Give the other side equal credence no matter how stupid they are. No. Just no. I want the damned middle back in the MIDDLE.

  9. A completely delicious writing on Romney (read moneyed would-be kingmakers) loss to Obama:

  10. Anonymous6:21 AM

    Glenn Beck’s New Year’s Resolution: No One On My Show Can Mention ‘That Man’ Obama Anymore

  11. Anonymous6:22 AM

    Krauthammer To O’Reilly: Obama Has Successfully ‘Neutered’ House Republicans

  12. Randall6:25 AM

    I would like to see EVERY Republican asked to be explicit when speaking in vague terms such as "entitlement reform".

    "What, exactly, do you mean, Senator? If you are suggesting cuts to Medicare and/or Social Security, then SAY SO."

    Maybe with a follow-up: "...or by 'entitlements' perhaps you mean inheritance - the estate tax? Or perhaps, the gift tax? Right now, rich people can 'gift' up to five million to each child without paying any tax on that gift.

    In either case, those children didn't work for that money - and yet they feel they're 'entitled' to it.

    Are those the 'entitlements' to which you refer? Senator?"

    1. Anonymous7:21 AM

      Bull shit on the gift tax.
      NO WHERE is the number 5 million mentioned. NO WHERE.

  13. Anonymous6:29 AM

    Lawrence O'Donnell clearly explained last evening (MSNBC "The Last Word") that the $400,000. deal is the 2013 equivalent of the $200,000. level of President Clinton's day. I do wish that the uber-Left would just calm down. President Obama is doing his best and that's quite an amazing "best," so Lefties ( who are usually too superior feeling to call themselves "Democrats"), just support the president during this new term, please.

    1. Anonymous9:59 AM

      The extreme left certainly did not go after Clinton like they go after President Obama. I still think it is racial undertones there.
      They act like President Obama has to do everything THEY want, and if they don't get everything THEY want, they cut him down. This only gives more ammunition to the righties. This is why we lost the House in 2010.
      And if the progressives don't be careful, they will cause us to lose even worse in 2014.

  14. Oh. At last. A few people seem to be getting the difference between a big photo-op banner screaming "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" and actual governing.

    50 years of politics through advertising, and the simultaneous disappearance of journalism, have resulted in short-term thinking [and action] all around.

    1. Anonymous8:31 AM

      Well said.

  15. I agree--this deal was a compromise. That's the reality of American politics--nobody gets everything they want. I would say that if President Obama's tenure in the Oval Office could be summed up in one sentence it would be, "Take a deep breath." Then call your representative, join a petition to support your causes, and in general make your voice heard. But take a deep breath first.

    1. fromthediagonal8:15 AM

      BodieP @7:12... well said!

      We have permitted the 24 hour availability of news to help make us a totally ADHD nation, one in which the "I want it and I want it now" mentality is all that matters.

      Thoughtful discourse has for the most part been abandoned for the eyeball-catching headline in even the most important decisions.

    2. Anonymous10:02 AM

      '''That's the reality of American politics--nobody gets everything they want.'''

      This is what I have been saying all alone. Now if only you can convince the progressives of this. They seem to want President Obama to be a dictator.

  16. dlbvet7:47 AM

    EXACTLY Gryphen!! I haven't read all the comments (so I'm sorry if I repeat anything), but I think Democrats/Liberals/Obama supporters do a huge, ginormous disservice to our esteemed President when they criticize and ultimately underestimate him. This man's brain is truly awesome. Every time the Left starts hyperventilating and having canipition (Have no earthly idea how to spell that--anyone want to help me out?) fits...after a while the dust settles and whatever it was that President O negotiated or did works out of the country better in the end.
    Not sure if I got my point across, but basically I agree with Andrew Sullivan. President Obama has always had his on the long-term...he's not playing at the moment for quick points...he's trying to win the game. And that is exactly what this country needs.
    He's always stepped up with the hard decisions that could ultimately jeopardize his political career and that wasn't what he cared about (I'm thinking the decision to go after OBL that weekend).
    The guy is a genius. He truly cares about the American people...and the Left needs to take a ginormous chill pill.
    There, I've said my all y'all have a lovely day. We're freezing our arses off here in Wyoming!

    1. Anonymous10:09 AM

      Well said. But also what bothers me is when the lefties do not get their way, they resort to demeaning President Obama, with demeaning terms like he has no ball, he has no backbone, AND IT IS ABSOLUTELY LIES, all of it. Or they will say he is a Repub, and juvenile talk like that. I am very disturbed at the verbiage lefties use when they are having their temper tantrums. They never went after Bill Clinton like that.

    2. Anonymous1:20 PM

      Not only does the President look at the long term implications of his decisions, he's also considering a tremendous amount of inside information that the rest of us simply don't have.

      While I haven't agreed with every decision he's made, overall I recognize that he's MUCH smarter than I'll ever be. I trust that he will do what he truly believes is best for ALL the citizens of this country, not necessarily what's most expedient for his own political career or the short-term win of a particular political party.

  17. hedgewytch10:01 AM

    Sullivan is a very deliberative thinker - it takes him awhile to actually come to a conclusion and see the light. I've had this one on Obama since I watched the way he got the AHCA passed through.

    Andrew STILL is holding onto his now non-existent Republican ideologies in the hope that somehow the Republican party that he grew up in and loved (even though they didn't return the favor and now they REALLY don't love him) will return to sanity.

    Andrew, you really need to get out of the GOP, what you are looking for from the modern party is not there, nor will it ever be. Quite being the abused wife and just say 'enough already' and get out!

  18. Anonymous12:51 PM

    Sullivan is too late. He already lost me. I won't ever forgive Obama for showing NO leadership when Democratic mayors and governors all over the country were sending goon squads to beat Occupy campers senseless in their sleep. I have no good expectations of Obama any more but I've never agreed with Sullivan and I probably never will.

    1. DetroitSam4:14 PM


      Take your meds, dude. Not making sense.

  19. Anita Winecooler8:34 PM

    I agree with your post. Andrew's an odd egg at times, he totally lost me during the debate, but I read what he puts out and agree. I have to trust that President Obama has a lot more information/resources that we aren't privy to, and by his performance in office so far, I'm thrilled with how masterfully he's handled the fiscal cliff.

    There is no such thing as "compromise" with either extreme. It's my way or no way, and we all see what that gets you.

  20. Anonymous12:17 AM

    Thank goodness I am no longer voting as a Democrat. I will never go back to being a Democrat ever again. President Obama will go down not as one of the greatest presidents ever, but as the most "protected presidents by liberals and the media because liberalism is more about winning, name calling and being a blind sheep led to slaughter for the glory of being a Democrat."


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