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Ezra Klein: Republicans have ‘Won’

We don’t yet know what the final deal to raise the debt ceiling will be. But now that Harry Reid is developing a proposal with $2.5 trillion in cuts and nothing in revenues, it’s a safe bet that it won’t include any tax increases. Which means that whether Republicans realize it or not, they’ve won. The question now is whether they can stop. [...] If you take the Republicans’ goals as avoiding a deal in which they have to vote for tax increases and denying Obama a political victory, it looks like they have succeeded. … – Ezra Klein

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen in the Oval Office to discuss the DADT (Don't Ask, Don't Tell) repeal certification, July 22, 2011. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Kathryn Ruemmler, Counsel to the President, also attend the meeting. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

All that was ever needed is a simple debt ceiling increase, something I’m still hoping will manifest. The plan floated by Sen. Reid is an embarrassment, but considering the entire Washington political class is too, no more should be expected from Democrats, who have failed to represent those who elected them so thoroughly that an argument for them in ’12 is no longer sustainable when using facts.

Klein goes on to say, however, that if Republicans keep pushing and there is default, the political damage will be incalculable. But considering that people have soured on all of Washington’s political class that’s an easy analysis.

The biggest loser in what Sen. Reid is proposing is the middle class and then the Democratic party. But these groups have been losing for a very long time. The reason for this is captured in Elizabeth Drew’s piece in the New York Review of Books that got so much attention over the weekend:

[...] This all fits with another development in the Obama White House. According to another close observer, David Plouffe, the manager of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, who officially joined the White House staff in January 2011, has taken over. “Everything is about the reelect,” this observer says–”where the President goes, what he does.”

Plouffe’s advice to the President defines not just Obama’s policies but also his behavior. Plouffe tells the President, according to this observer, that the target group wants him to seem the most reasonable man in the room. Plouffe is the conceptualizer, and Bill Daley, the chief of staff who shares Plouffe’s political outlook, makes things happen; Gene Sperling, the director of economic policy, and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, are smart men but they come out of politics rather than academia or deep experience in their respective fields. Once Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, departs later this summer, all of the President’s original economic advisers will be gone. Partly this is because the President’s emphasis on budget cutting didn’t leave them very much to do. One White House émigré told me, “It’s not a place that welcomes ideas.”

Because of the extent to which the President had allowed the Republicans to set the terms of the debate, the attitude of numerous congressional Democrats toward him became increasingly sour, even disrespectful. After Obama introduced popular entitlement programs into the budget fight, a Democratic senator described the attitude of a number of his colleagues as:

Resigned disgust at the White House: there they go again. “Mr. Halfway” keeps getting maneuvered around as Republicans move the goalposts on him.

If Republicans are smart, though there is no evidence they are, they’ll double down on the theme represented above, because it’s the heart of Barack Obama’s political cravenness: “Everything is about the reelect.” Speaker Boehner has on Twitter, but they should do more of it. It has the virtue of being true. It’s orchestrated through David Plouffe, Obama’s version of Mark Penn, but certainly best represented by Pres. Obama himself. There is absolutely nothing Obama reelect won’t do for another term, with Obama’s water being carried by the Senate establishment in Sen. Harry Reid.

As for the rest of Drew’s analysis, like Frank Rich and so many others, it’s way too late and has been written over and over again by people outside the establishment. Drew’s piece is interesting for emphasizing the Democratic bankruptcy of David Plouffe, I guess, but it’s really nothing more than the traditional press finally catching up.


TM Note: Originally crediting Drews’ piece to the New York Times, this has been corrected above.

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