President Obama’s top pick for Secretary of State was Susan Rice. Many Republicans have been throwing a hissy fit about what she said on a Sunday talk show and now Rice has withdrawn her name from consideration. It is possible these two things are unrelated, but it definitely appears to many that Obama again folded to Republicans, even though this is a fight Democrats could have won.
This seems to feed an image about Obama that he is unwilling to really go to the mat in a fight. There is an impression that when faced with Republican intransigence Obama’s instinct is to reward such behavior, instead of trying to punish or break it. After all, this is a man who once said about a negotiation with Republicans, “I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed. Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed.”
Some of these moments of weakness may have actually been part of a plan by Obama to try selling possible cuts to his base, but what is important in this upcoming debt ceiling fight is the impression it has left with Republicans.
Obama claims they will not allow the debt ceiling to be taken hostage again, but the GOP believes they can use it to get huge concessions out of Obama. What we have is a the makings for a high stakes game of chicken and that is a lot easier to win if the other side thinks you won’t ever blink. But over the past four years Obama has given the impression that he blinks more than an antsy three year old with pink eye.
Obama may be serious about holding firm on the debt ceiling; but since Republicans have good reason not believe him, this upcoming fight could become incredibly problematic as a result.
Photo by James O’Malley under Creative Commons license.