Paul Krugman summarizes:
President Pushover : The redoubtable Elizabeth Drew has a forthcoming article in the New York Review of Books — not yet online — that confirms all our worst fears. She tells us that past concessions have
established in both Democrats’ and Republicans’ minds the thought that Obama was a weak negotiator—a “pushover.” He was more widely seen among Democrats and other close observers as having a strategy of starting near where he thinks the Republicans are—at the fifty-yard line—and then moving closer to their position. Even more alarming, however, is her window on what the White House is thinking:
It all goes back to the “shellacking” Obama took in the 2010 elections. The President’s political advisers studied the numbers and concluded that the voters wanted the government to spend less. This was an arguable interpretation. Nevertheless, the political advisers believed that elections are decided by middle-of-the-road independent voters, and this group became the target for determining the policies of the next two years.
OK, I’ve never won a tough election. But neither has Obama! The 2008 race was looking close until Sarah Palin and Lehman came along. And as far as I can tell, this assessment both of what 2010 was about and what matters for 2012 is just ludicrous.
As I recall, two things happened last year: voters were angry about the weak economy, and older voters believed that Obama was going to take away their Medicare and send them to the death panels. And so the way to win those voters back is to cut Medicare and weaken the economy?
A further point: even if Obama really does cut spending, will anyone notice? Even people who are supposedly well informed believe that there was a vast expansion of government under Obama, when in fact there wasn’t. So we’re supposed to believe that independent voters will actually be able to cut through the fog — the deliberate fog of Fox, the he-said-she-said of most other media organizations — and give him credit for spending cuts? Remember, whatever he does Republicans will claim that the government is getting bigger — and news organization will report only that “Democrats say” that this isn’t true.