Debt deal: Will it help Obama or hurt him?

Some people think President Obama caved in; others think he got what he wanted.

This may be remembered as the week that Barack Obama “became a one-termer,” said John Podhoretz in the New York Post. Washington bureaucrats are still studying the deficit-reduction plan that ended the stalemate over raising the national debt limit. In the wider nation, however, President Obama’s reputation has already taken a major hit in the polls, from which it will likely never recover. The president said throughout the debt-ceiling talks that he would support only a plan that raised taxes on the wealthy, but in the end he signed off on exactly what the Republicans wanted: a bill that will cut spending by $1.5 trillion without raising a penny in new revenues. Obama’s capitulation has emboldened his enemies, “dismayed many in his party,” and made him look like “a loser,” said Clive Crook in the Financial Times. “Whatever comes next, his presidency is in trouble.”

He could have done much worse, said Thomas DeFrank in the New York Daily News. In the final flurry of negotiations, Obama successfully “pushed back the next debt-extension donnybrook to 2013, guaranteeing that this summer’s legislative chaos won’t be rerun during next year’s campaign.” Better still, by his willingness to deal with intransigent Republicans, he came away yet again looking like “the only grown-up in the sandbox,” which can only help him in 2012, particularly with vital moderates and independents who favor compromise over ideological rigor. The president didn’t handle this perfectly, said Matthew Dickinson in, but he got there in the end. Considering that he was facing opponents who would rather default on the national debt and trigger a full-blown economic depression than raise taxes on millionaires by a single penny, “this is probably the best deal Obama was going to negotiate.”

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