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White House aides are anxious to portray the deal Obama cut with the Republicans over the extension of the George W. Bush tax cuts as a shrewd move to the center. It was nothing of the sort. It was surrender, pure and simple.
It was as much of a “compromise” as that reached between Gens. Grant and Lee at Appomattox and between Emperor Hirohito and Gen. MacArthur on the deck of the Missouri in Tokyo Bay in 1945.
When Bill Clinton triangulated, he never abandoned his personal view or his policy preferences. He had always endorsed welfare reform and embraced both the work requirement and the time limit on the dole. He had vetoed previous Republican welfare reform bills because they included Medicaid and food stamp cuts, which he has always opposed. When he signed an anti-crime bill, he had always supported GOP positions on the death penalty and truth in sentencing. And when he reached his balanced budget deal, he gave away nothing.
Democrats are right to portray Obama’s compromise as a surrender. He desperately wants to raise taxes on wealthy people, not for the revenue as much as to redistribute income. But he couldn’t do it and gave in.
The Obama surrender over the Bush tax cuts tells us something about the man: He has, in the words of Theodore Roosevelt describing President William McKinley, “no more backbone than a chocolate eclair.” He blinked over the tax cuts, and he will blink again and again and again. He will blink over the debt limit extension. He will blink over bailing out the states from their red ink.
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