To look ahead, sometimes it’s necessary to look back.
In January, President Barack Obama said in an interview with ABC News: “I’d rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.” At that time, his signature domestic issue, healthcare reform, had been dealt a setback with the election of Republican Scott Brown to the Senate seat long held by the late Edward Kennedy, and some senators were balking at approving Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for a second term.
Bernanke got confirmed in late January and healthcare reform passed in March.
An outsider looking at the current hand-wringing on Capitol Hill over extending tax cuts could be forgiven for thinking the issue is on a razor’s edge, when in fact it is highly likely that Obama’s compromise with the Republicans will pass in some form. Vice President Joe Biden, the president’s arm-twister on this issue, has been up on the Hill talking to reluctant Democrats and in the end will likely have the votes.
“I expect everybody to examine it carefully. When they do, I think they’re going to feel confident that, in fact, this is the right course — while understanding that for the next two years we’re going to have a big debate about taxes and we’re going to have a big debate about the budget and we’re going to have a big debate about deficits,” Obama said.
Starting next month the political scene moves into adjustment mode for the new realities of a divided Congress and the strategizing for the 2012 presidential election.
Senior White House aide David Axelrod put it bluntly when he told reporters of the “political calculation” in the decision to cut a deal with Republicans over tax cuts: Obama is well aware that if the fragile economic recovery falters, his own political prospects will go down with it.