Could Obama have adopted a far more aggressive posture while negotiations were going on? Absolutely. But the simple fact of entering into talks inevitably reinforced the sense that Obama and Dems were not prepared to allow default — no matter what — reinforcing a set of dynamics that were stacked against them. Was that avoidable?
…It may simply be that the dynamics of the situation were insumountable: Obama and Dems were not prepared to let the country default no matter what. Were Republicans prepared to allow the country to default? We can’t know — but Obama plainly decided he didn’t want to take the risk of finding out…
Whatever the reason, we simply can’t know whether a more aggressive approach from Obama would have changed the basic dynamics of the situation or resulted in a better deal.
But what this ‘analysis’ misses is that Obama had other options–he didn’t have to negotiate. Even if you want to take the 14th Amendment option off the table, he had the legal option of coin seigniorage (weird, but completely legal). That would have made whatever the Republicans wanted to do irrelevant.
Yet Obama chose not to do that, and instead will accept cuts (including, no doubt, funding for basic scientific research) in discretionary spending–and depending whether triggers are activated, Medicare.
He wanted something like this, since he’s been promising various kinds of ‘entitlement reform’ from day one (actually, during the campaign too).