There is a current rec. list diary celebrating Lawrence O'Donnell's analysis of President Obama's debt talks strategy. And while certain aspects have merit, two important propositions are flawed.
First: O'Donnell claims the following, regarding Obama's "rope-a-dope" tactics with Republicans:
...Biden and the President insisted that there be at least a trillion in tax revenue increases and Republican Eric Cantor fell for the Obama ultimatum and walked out of the talks doing exactly what the President wanted him to do because Cantor was thereby proving to the country once again that President Obama was willing to be much more flexible and reasonable in these negotiations and compromises with Republicans than Republicans were willing to be with the President. Specific policy issues aside, President Obama has already won the public contest of who appears to be more reasonable and he won that weeks ago."
O'Donnell, caught in a world of inside baseball, of course believes that Obama has won the public opinion game. However, what he fails to realize, in his commentator's cocoon, is...
...that the general public is not following (nor can most understand) the intricacies of the numbers or the internal wranglings between Cantor, Boehner and Obama.
To suggest that our President, in agreeing to Republican numbers, has somehow won the "public contest" of who appears to be more reasonable is to suggest that mainstream America has been watching this unfold as closely as O'Donnell has.
And they have not.
I would love to see polls that back up O'Donnell's claims, but unfortunately, there are no such polls, and I would be willing to wager that any correlation between Obama's handling of this situation and measures of his "reasonableness" would be weak. (Gallup's daily tracking poll has surely not moved positively for Obama as a result of the last few weeks.)
But that's simply the first point upon which O'Donnell is mistaken, and the least important, for it treats the political, electoral implications of the debt talks.
The second, and more important point, is the notion that this great "rope-a-dope," and we heard this before with regard to the public option, is in force is a bit of hyperbole. O'Donnell's claim that Obama's acceptance of Republican numbers – $4 trillion for the debt ceiling – is tactical in order to get the Republicans to balk is an interesting one. But then that logic would need to be applied to his similar acceptance of cutting Social Security and Medicare.
In my view, the logic doesn't hold.
Do I hope this is a great boxing performance, in which we are surprised at the end?
Is this actually what's occurring? I'm not so sure.