The GOP's plan to force Medicare and Social Security cuts under threat of a debt default could prove wildly unpopular with the right White House framing, and Obama has proved himself pretty capable in this department.
The problem is what happens when, having crafted a favorable backdrop to the negotiation, it comes time for him to close the deal. And this is where the just-completed "cliff" episode is still disconcerting. Because it turns out Obama made a critical if underappreciated mistake in the final hours of the back and forth: sending Joe Biden to haggle with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell once McConnell's talks with his Democratic counterpart, Harry Reid, had broken down.
From my after-the-fact discussions with Democratic aides in the House and Senate leadership, it’s clear that Reid had a plan for resolving the cliff and considered the breakdown of his talks with McConnell very much a part of it. By involving Biden, Obama undercut Reid and signaled that he wanted a deal so badly he was unwilling to leave anything to chance, even when the odds overwhelmingly favored him. It suggested that even if Obama plays his cards exceedingly well in the run-up to the debt-limit showdown, he could still come away with a worse deal than he deserves because of his willingness to make concessions in the closing moments. [emphasis added]The New Republic
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