Mr. Obama still seems coolly unperturbed about Republican intransigence, and his negotiators are apparently willing to consider trading an extension of the tax cuts for votes on the treaty and the unemployment benefits, now more vital than ever. But imagine if he had taken to the airwaves, raised his voice and said he would not allow tax cuts for the top 2 percent of households when the money could better be spent on creating jobs?identifying with his captors:
There are limits to this kind of jawboning, of course, and he might still have lost the battle. But at least the public would know the president has core positions. Unlike the complexities of health care reform, a tax cut for the rich is easy to understand at a time of high unemployment. A new CBS News poll shows that only 26 percent of Americans support continuing the high-end tax break, which in the 2008 campaign Mr. Obama unambiguously vowed to end.
In the absence of presidential leadership, the Republicans have a much stronger hand. The dismal November jobs report, which showed that average wages grew by a Scrooge-like penny an hour and unemployment rose to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent, made unemployment benefits a more valuable hostage.
This need not have happened if Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats had forcefully asserted their agenda before the midterm election and held a vote on the tax cuts. Now, if Democratic negotiators are going to trade the jobless benefits and the New Start treaty for the high-end tax cuts, they should at least ensure that expiring tax credits for low- and middle-income working Americans from the stimulus program also be extended.
It may be that Mr. Obama still believes that bipartisan gestures can overcome extreme policy differences. But the rest of Washington woke up from that dream long ago. It has become a snare. Mr. Obama will have to spend the next two years contesting an implacable opposition. It would be a terrible mistake to begin by offering up core principles.
New York Times Editorial, Dec. 3, 2010
THOSE desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled “Understanding Stockholm Syndrome” in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin. It explains that hostage takers are most successful at winning a victim’s loyalty if they temper their brutality with a bogus show of kindness. Soon enough, the hostage will start concentrating on his captors’ “good side” and develop psychological characteristics to please them — “dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide or think.”