Unlike Many Progressives Kevin Drum Avoids the Obama Category Error

Matthew Yglesias wonders why Obama didn't push for a debt ceiling increase when he had the chance last year:

It didn't happen. Obama said he trusted John Boehner. Harry Reid said he didn't want the debt limit to be raised by the 111th Congress because he wanted to force the incoming 112th Congress to take ownership over it. The results of these decisions have been a disaster.

What's more, not only was the disaster predictable but even once it was visibly on the horizon the White House bungled it. There was a brief opportunity for the President to dig in his heels and simply refuse to compromise. Then the debate rapidly would have become "can John Boehner round up the votes in his caucus necessary to avoid a default." Instead, the White House conceded the unprecedented point that even though Boehner and Obama agreed about the desirability of raising the debt ceiling that the White House should make concessions to the Speaker in order to obtain it. Consequently, you get what we have here this week.

As I pointed out in this post about the male employment deficit, these 'failures' aren't bugs, but features (italics mine):

...during his first two years in office Obama had gotten enough deficit religion from the likes of Peter Orszag and Tim Geithner that he actually welcomed the opportunity to put in place some long-term spending cuts. He couldn't very well admit that publicly, of course, since his base would go bananas, so instead he punted on the debt ceiling, knowing that Republicans would then use it to "force" spending concessions out of him. Mission accomplished: long-term spending is reduced, and Republicans get all the blame. Democrats mostly forgive him because everyone knows Republicans are crazy, and as a bonus, Republicans don't even get much of a boost from their own base out of this since any real-world spending cut won't come close to the demands of the tea party crowd.

...the kind of negotiating position Matt is talking about isn't rocket science. It's not even Negotiation 101. It's more like the fifth grade version. There's just no way that Obama and Reid and the rest of the Democratic brain trust were literally so stupid that they didn't understand this. A far more parsimonious explanation is that this is roughly what Obama wanted. He wanted spending cuts, but he wanted Republicans to be the ones to take the lead. And that's what happened.

Drum is absolutely right. When Obama lashes into the 'left' (which currently is defined as centrist technocrats and moderate Democrats), he really believes it. Looking back at his dreadfully mistimed equating of environmentalists with global warming denialists (dreadful because the oil rig Deepwater Horizon blew up only days later), it's clear he does not care for the views of moderate, never mind liberal, Democrats (in a sane political system, where batshitloonitarians and theocrats aren't running one of the two major parties, Obama would be a Rockefeller Republican).

So 'progressives' need to stop trying to figure out why Obama won't do the 'right thing', since the answer is pretty straightforward: he doesn't think it's the right thing to do.

There is no time for category errors.


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