If a huge swath of the American people weren’t suffering, I might actually be able to enjoy President Obama being forced to finally struggle with the credibility issue he has cultivated over the past four years.
It would appear the basis of Obama’s legislative tactics has been to try to be too clever by half. Instead of directly going out stating his preferred position and accepting/rejecting whatever compromise could be reached, Obama seems to have always thought he could get more through subterfuge.
He has repeatedly feigned weakness, created needless crises, called for bipartisanship and used artificial legislature hurdles to try to claim he was “forced” into doing what he really wanted.
During health care reform, instead of saying he actively opposed the public option and direct drug price negotiations because he cut a deal with the drug lobby, Obama tried to pretend these were in fact big concessions to Republicans. This ended up causing Obama to waste months trying to get any Republicans on board to make this excuse work. When no Republicans agreed to go along Obama ended up look like a terrible negotiator for still giving up “big concessions” — without getting any votes.
When the Bush tax cut deal was reached, Obama again thought it would be clever to needlessly “fold” and only accept an tax on incomes over $400,000. In reality what Obama has always wanted most was a grand bargain. If he fought harder and got a full repeal on the Bush tax cuts for the rich, there would probably be nothing for congressional Democrats to get from a grand bargain. That would have ended up being a long term “lose” from Obama’s perspective. So he chose to look weak and leave some revenue on the table. That way there could be something he could “get” from Republican in his next grand bargain push.
During the last debt ceiling fight Obama thought a fake crisis would cause all sides to agree to a grand bargain so Obama pretended to be weak. He invited this Republican hostage taking tactic by saying he was open to negotiations. Now Republicans think he is weak on the debt ceiling, instead of realizing he was just trying to play everyone the last time.
After watching Obama constantly feigning weakness to do things to justify pursuing policies he know his Democratic base would oppose, I find it funny that no one in Washington ever knows when Obama is being sincere. So when Obama finally actually takes a firm position Republicans don’t trust him. Rep. Paul Ryan straight up said, “no one believes that.”
We are now seeing why this was a stupid strategy long-term. When Obama really needs credibility, he doesn’t have any.