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Today’s big Washington, D.C. political news was noted by Jon Walker here this morning:

House Republicans are about to fold on the debt limit. They are no longer going to demand that any increase in the limit be matched with spending cuts.

What makes this development particularly notable is what Jon (among many others) was writing earlier this week here

Effectively, the position of the White House is that this fight will only end if Obama folds or the Republicans fold…

… Obama doesn’t want to get around the debt ceiling, he wants to beat the Republicans on it.  Obama seems to believe he can win at a game of chicken, despite his rather abysmal track record so far.

… and here:

Obama’s behavior regarding the debt limit has been all over the map. Back in 2011, Obama seemed to actively encourage GOP “hostage taking” because he wanted to negotiate over the debt limit to get a grand bargain.

When that blew up in Obama’s face he changed his tune by claiming he would not negotiate over the debt limit again. Yet only a few days later Obama included a one year increase in a possible fiscal cliff deal, basically allowing it to be used as a negotiation bargaining chip by John Boehner….

I will admit this time Obama does really sound sincere, but he sounded sincere almost every other time as well. I have trouble believing Obama is credible this time, and I can only imagine it is much worse for House Republicans.

As far as I can tell, this was pretty much the conventional wisdom everywhere — especially two weeks ago, when the much-hyped New Year’s Eve fiscal cliff showdown was punted to become the February/March debt-ceiling showdown.  President Obama was almost universally seen as having picked a fight that, based on past experience, there was little reason to think he had the stomach to win.

In fact, there was a pretty fair-sized cottage industry among left-leaning bloggers that Obama wanted to “lose”… that is, use the excuse of the debt ceiling or other perceived leverage to make Democrats accept a deal that would give the Republicans important policy victories in terms of spending cuts, especially to Medicare and Social Security.  (And it’s beyond dispute that he dangled this possibility if the GOP would agree to tax hikes, though diehard defenders might argue that he privately knew this wouldn’t happen.)

My question is, what happens to that line of thinking now, with Republican demands seemingly evaporating by the moment?  Was all the grand-bargain paranoia misplaced?  Or did Obama overestimate the GOP’s ability to stand its rhetorical ground just as much as everyone else did — with the result that he’s looking at his game of eleven-dimensional chess and wondering if he’s checkmated himself?

If he’s truly determined to be the Democratic president who gives ground on entitlements, how does he created the apparent pressure that “makes” him do that when the Republicans seem unwilling to apply any such pressure?



Swopa has been sharing prescient, if somewhat anal-retentive, analysis and garden-variety mockery with Internet readers since 1995 or so, when he began debunking the fantasies of Clinton-scandal aficionados on Usenet. He is currently esconced as the primary poster at Needlenose (www.needlenose.com).