Is Obama's forced deal with Republicans on the re-upping of the Bush tax cuts a result of strategic "triangulation" or political strangulation?
President Obama and Congressional lame duck Democrats thought they could muscle through their own tax cut deal leaving out those making $250,000 or more -- thereby soaking and penalizing the few who provide for the many.
They also thought they could also extend unemployment insurance thereby warehousing a workforce instead of putting them to work.
Then the bad news hit - last week we learned that unemployment rose to 9.8 percent. Faced with continued high unemployment and expiring tax cuts and lack of confidence and anger in the market place forced the president to scrap ideology for reality.
The president and Democrats will be forced to re-up the Bush tax cuts for all Americans, cut the payroll tax and deal with estate taxes in a bipartisan way. -- Not because they wanted to but because they had to. If the president practiced what he preached 2 years ago he could have been done much earlier what they are force to do now and as a result our recovery would have been healthier and more robust.
"Triangulation" is a phrase that describes the act of a politician who advances his position as being between the left and the right. The politician slyly adopts the position on his opponent and thereby cuts of or triangulates any push back from the opposition to his own position.
The greatest triangulator in recent times was President Clinton. After Clinton took a beating in the 1994 midterms he realized that he had to reverse his political fortunes in order to save his own political skin. So, Clinton in his re-election campaign advanced right of center positions that were not typical of a national Democratic candidate. Clinton supported a balanced budget and deregulation, positions he knew Republicans could not attack.
Taking the wind out of the sails of your opposition is the hallmark of triangulation.
There is a fine line however between triangulation and strangulation.
On tax cuts, Obama was forced to make a deal. He did not adopt a position of his opponents as an affirmative policy but instead was boxed into a deal because reality, time and public opinion were against him.
Obama attempted to spin that it was his bipartisan approach that caused a deal to be made but we know better. The cornerstone of Obama's campaign and his administration up to and including last week was that he would not cut taxes on those making in excess of $250,000. Obama vowed to tax those making in excess and refused to extend the Bush tax cuts. He blamed the Bush tax cuts for getting us into the "ditch" we are in economically and said the Bush tax cuts was irresponsible.
Democrats are apoplectic that president Obama "caved" to Republicans on their signature issue. They are disgusted that Obama and the White House would "sell out" and not stand their ground. They are afraid that his newfound bipartisanship will be the rule instead of the exception going forward. Left of center Democrats do not want compromise -- they want it all.
And if they can't get it so be it. Nothing gets done.
It is clear now that Obama was the victim of strangulation not triangulation on the tax compromise.
It remains to be seen if the president has learned any lessons moving forward with a new Congress in January.
Once the president catches his breath, he is the one that needs to change his style and governance if there is any "hope" for his re-election. Obama needs to quiet his base and make them understand that half a loaf is better than no loaf at all.
A strategy of triangulation can save him while a strategy of strangulation will doom him.
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion.