Monday, July 25, 2011

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Wow. Even the faithful Obama apologist Steve Kornacki is expressing some doubts about the Great Collaborationist. As a result of the GOP's earlier push for a voucher program to replace Medicare, and Kathy Hochul's surprise victory in a May 24 special election in New York, using Medicare as a club to beat her opponents:
Suddenly, the idea that Democrats might actually post the 25-seat gain needed to win back the House in 2012 didn't seem out of the question. At the very least, it seemed, they had found a winning issue sure to bring them within striking distance of control heading into the 2014 cycle.

But then came the "grand bargain." For the past several weeks, Obama has aggressively and publicly pursued a deficit-slashing deal with Boehner that, in exchange for relatively slight revenue increases, would make deep domestic spending cuts, even in Medicare and Social Security. The grand bargain now seems dead, but Obama has now provided an abundance of emphatic sound bites in which he makes it clear that he believes entitlement spending can and should be cut and that doing so would strengthen -- and not harm -- the programs. In other words, he has handed the GOP the tools to create the perfect response to ads like Hochul's during the '12 campaign.

The basic political logic behind Obama's move is obvious. As Ed Kilgore noted this morning, he is pursuing a reelection strategy that depends on convincing swing voters that he's a reasonable, compromise-friendly pragmatist -- and that the GOP is beholden to an irrationally ideological base. There are even those who believe Obama always knew the grand bargain wouldn't work, and that he pushed it so hard just to demonstrate how unwilling the GOP is to compromise. ...

What is clear, though, is that Obama has made his party's strategy for next year's election a lot more complicated.
Yup, that's pretty clear. So clear that even Kornacki can see it.

I want to stress again that the move against entitlements isn't news to those who've actually paid attention to Obama. He began dropping hints about cutting Social Security and Medicare before he won the nomination, let alone the election. I don't think it's at all unfair to say that the budget conflict just gave him the chance he's been waiting for all along.