Krugman's long national agony is over
Krugman before Boehner's "Plan B" collapsed*:
The question about this looming deal is whether the end justifies the means. Unfortunately, it’s not nearly as clear a case as the health care deal, and I’m agonizing, big time; as of last night I was marginally positive, right now marginally negative.
Furthermore, it’s now clear that [Boehner]'s having trouble getting his party unified even for a tiny tax rise on the wealthy — which means that he would suffer massive defections in any deal that even a wimpy Obama (if that’s what we have again, which I hope we don’t)** might agree to. And that in turn means that any deal would have to have overwhelming Democratic support — which gives progressives in the House, who already feel that Obama has given away too much, a lot of veto power despite their minority status.
And what is Obama doing?
Still "negotiating"! Even though there is now nobody to negotiate with! Newark Star Ledger:
"It is very hard for them to say yes to me," [Obama] said, referring to the staunch opposition of the party's right wing to tax increases -- an intransigence vividly illustrated by Boehner's failed attempt to pass the millionaires tax Thursday.
"At some point, they've got to take me out of it and think about their voters, and think about what's best for the country," he continued. "And if they do that -- if they're not worried about who's winning and who's losing, did they score a point on the President, did they extract that last little concession, did they force him to do something he really doesn't want to do just for the heck of it, and they focus on actually what's good for the country."
In other words, there's really no "negotiation" going on, as far as wer'e concerned. Obama wants the scalps of some dead elders, and he will have them. As Pete Peterson's Fecal Times points out:
But whatever the reason, the result is that the nation no longer has a party of the left, but one of the center-right that is akin to what were liberal Republicans in the past – there is no longer any such thing as a liberal Republican – and a party of the far right.
In a little-noticed comment on Spanish-language television on December 14, Obama himself confirmed this typology of today's political spectrum. Said Obama, "The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican."
I think this is correct and explains a great deal about why Obama refuses to use his leverage to pursue liberal policies and keeps inviting Republicans back to the negotiating table again and again on the budget. He wants a deal, he wants to cut spending and balance the budget if possible. This may or may not be a wise course for a Democratic president to follow, but that is who Obama is.
FWIW, I think Boehner got Obama to throw him in the briar patch. After all, which party is going to gut Social Security? Why, the Democrats, as Obama -- who is not, as Krugman seems to think, a wimp -- can go ahead and do exactly what he's wanted to do for years.