David Frum (are all the thoughtful conservatives named David?) writes about the impending debt crisis and Obama's handling of it. Count me among those who agree the president has blown it by refusing to accept that the current Congressional Republicans are dishonest thieves; by continuing to believe that people on the other side are as honorable as he is:
I understand that a president has to think about the long-term good of the country (or, at least, that a thoughtful one, unlike George Bush, would.) I assume the prospect of defaulting on our debt could be too awful even to consider (not too long ago, John Boehner evidently felt the same way, until he figured he could use the idea as blackmail.) But this seems to me to be exactly the reason to have held fast.
.... How in the world did the president arrive at this disastrous predicament?
You can blame his opponents if you want. Yes, the House Republicans have played politics very rough. Not since the era of the Vietnam War has a house of Congress used the threat of national bankruptcy to gain its way on a policy point.
... from the point of view of the president's supporters, the roughness of the president's opponents makes all the more inexcusable the president's mishandling of the situation.
...the president decided to assume they were bluffing, that they would never actually do anything so reckless. Waking up to the reality of the situation too late, he commenced bargaining by offering what he assumed would be an irresistible deal. Wrong again. The Republicans did resist. So Obama offered an even better deal -- which predictably only whetted the GOP appetite for still more.
Obama never publicly branded the debt ceiling as "if the Republicans force this country into bankruptcy." He issued no public call to constituencies like the financial industry to bring pressure to bear on the issue. He did not warn that he would manage any crisis in ways that Republicans would not like. ("If the Republicans in Congress deny me the authority to pay everybody, then I'm going to have to choose some priorities. I don't think it's likely that Texas-based defense contractors will find themselves at the top of my list.")
Instead, he appealed again and again to Republicans' spirit of responsibility. Good luck with that.
Through it all, Obama has played nice, again and again entreating his Republican opponents to emulate his example and play nice too. It's not what Lyndon Johnson would have done. It's not what Franklin Roosevelt would have done. I doubt it's what Hillary Clinton would have done.
Which brings me back to my starting question: Why don't the Democrats rebel? Presumably, they elected Obama to stand up for their shared principles. But he's not standing up. He's rolling over. Or being rolled.