Viewpoint: Make a Deal Now, Obama

Delaying an agreement on the fiscal cliff only makes the re-elected president's ultimate task more difficult

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Olivier Douliery / UPPA / ZUMA PRESS

President Barack Obama speaks at a bipartisan meeting of congressional leaders as House Speaker John Boehner looks on, Nov. 16, 2012 in Washington.

“The ground of liberty,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, “is gained by inches.” Wise counsel, yes, for patience amid the tribulations of political life, which is inherently contentious and can never leave everyone happy about everything.

There are moments, though, when the hour has to be seized if we’re to gain those inches, and for President Obama, this is such a moment.

In terms of the fiscal issues facing the country, every day that passes slowly but inexorably erodes the re-elected President’s leverage over the process that a majority of voting Americans just charged him with leading. House Speaker John Boehner has suggested that 2013 is the year to settle the pending questions of taxing and spending, but 2013 is all that nearer to congressional elections and all that farther from Obama’s victory. The clock is not the President’s friend.

(MORE: Why We Should Go over the Fiscal Cliff)

To say the least, columns offering advice to a man who just joined Wilson, FDR and Clinton as a two-term Democratic President are of limited utility. He knows politics, and by his own admission, his opponents have made him a “better President.” So he knows that power, like affection, is fleeting.

It’s the rest of us, I think, who need to insist that Washington face the issues that were delayed from the summer of 2011 until now. Obama can’t do this alone, and one suspects that even he knows this by now.

But he can begin to lay the rhetorical groundwork that puts the pressure — and thus the political blame — on the Republicans if we go over the cliff. President Obama has a relatively recent precedent for this: Bill Clinton managed to defeat the Republicans over a threatened government shutdown in the mid-1990s. And we know that the 42nd President stands ready to offer as much counsel as the 44th needs.

MORE: Why Obama’s Second Term Isn’t Doomed

4 comments
j45ashton
j45ashton like.author.displayName 1 Like

You know according what I read Obama was ready to deal before.  Yes, it's been reported that he and Boehner had agreed on one revenue amount, then Obama asked for more.  All Boehner had to do was say 'no'.  But instead Boehner stopped talking & wouldn't even return Obama's phone calls & in taking that childish action is where things really fell apart.  So the underlying premise of Meacham's article is that Obama wasn't ready to make a deal before & the dealing fell apart solely because of Obama, and that's not so.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky like.author.displayName 1 Like

Yes, reach an agreement NOW Mr. President, while you have the greatest negotiating strength and to calm and energize the markets.

Kokua4u
Kokua4u like.author.displayName 1 Like

Greed is destroying the environment we depend on, recycle the GOP! This is NO time to compromise with the greedy.

RoccoJohnson
RoccoJohnson

"he can begin to lay the rhetorical groundwork that puts the pressure—and thus the political blame—on the Republicans if we go over the cliff."

This is exactly the problem with the lack of progress in Congress, the president, and not to mention the media, as they seem intent on affixing blame on one party over the other. This author, Meacham, and so many others are quick to suggest bipartisanship, as long as that means Democrats get everything they want, but real bipartisanship means compromise on ideology from both sides. There needs to be less blame, and more compromise. No one politician is going to get everything they want in a compromise deal, but the American people will only stand to benefit. From the near split of the vote in the election I think much of the nation is clearly saying that they want bipartisan solutions, something our elected leaders just can't seem to get through their heads. This country needs less kowtowing to MoveOn Democrats and Tea Party Republicans, and start getting behind the centrists of both parties.