Obama has repeatedly claimed he will not negotiate over the debt limit and will not make concessions to see the debt limit raised or the government opened. Now that we are days away from the October 17th deadline, we will see if Obama really means it. Allowing the government to shut down was relatively easy; being prepared allow a default is far more difficult.
Obama already suffers from a serious credibility problem. His strategy of trying to get what he wants with clever lies and faking weakness has left no one able to predict if or when he will actually stick to his guns. If Obama needlessly gives the Republicans anything, even something minor to save face, at this moment it would destroy any remaining credibility he has left.
Politically, this standoff could not be going better for Obama. The American people are overwhelmingly blaming the shutdown on Republicans. It is also a serious enough event that it is changing peoples’ minds about how they plan to vote, which is what really matters in politics. Obama is in as strong a position as he could ever legitimately hope to be. This is the moment to set a precedent for credibility.
If Obama can’t stand firm now it will mean he will never stand firm ever and the Republicans will know it. What is really at stake is not the possible terms of the current negotiation, it is how many more of these ridiculous standoffs we will face over the next three years.