The day after Barack Obama was elected, I predicted that he would become the most disappointing president since World War II. I was confident that my prediction would hold.
Man, was I wrong. Now it appears as though one may have to look back to James Buchanan, who presided over the dissolution of the Union, for a president who disappointed his partisans more.
I've been following and occasionally participating in politics for more than 40 years now. I have never seen a conservative Republican (who now looks moderate due to circumstances) blast a Democratic president for rolling over to congressional Republicans.
But that's exactly what former Bush speechwriter David Frum did Tuesday in his column on CNN. He said that "[t]he debt ceiling negotiations have amounted to a succession of retreats and concessions by President Obama ... [t]he president's weakness ... empowered the most radical Republicans."
To be clear: Frum only cares about this issue because it involves money. He would be fine with cuts to social welfare programs, although he would like to see some increase in revenue as well. He's panicked because Obama's first counter-offer to Republican zealots who want to blow up the economy was a plan that offers to kill the economy more slowly; just cut it and let it bleed out. Republicans rejected the offer. Obama has countered with one that exceeds Ronald Reagan's wildest fiscal-conservative fantasies—the ones that Reagan ultimately discarded as impractical.
This may be the first time Frum has concerned himself with the president's peculiar negotiating strategies; it is far, however, from the first time Obama has begun negotiations from a position of weakness and then bargained away the best of his policies.
He announced in advance his intention to secure the position of for-profit health insurance companies in his health insurance reform package, and then happily told Bret Baier at Fox News that he "rejected a whole bunch of provisions that the left wanted that are — you know, they were very adamant about because I thought it would be too disruptive to the system."
If there's one thing you want in a health insurance reform program, it's to avoid disrupting the system.
Frum's ire isn't only directed at Obama. "Why", he asks "don't the Democrats rebel? Presumably, they elected Obama to stand up for their shared principles. But he's not standing up. He's rolling over. Or being rolled."
Democrats don't rebel. It's no longer their thing. Maybe they'll reject particular details of the plan in sufficient numbers to force the modification of it, but with fewer than a handful of exceptions, they've capitulated to the illusive necessity of spending cuts.
And it may not matter anyway. As Frum notes, every concession from the president prompts another demand from the Republicans. It's a Cuban missile crisis in which Kennedy concedes the issue before Khrushchev even puts missiles in Cuba.