Over the past four years Republicans have been foolish in so many ways: McConnell's "one-term president" comment, the debt crisis, a ridiculous presidential campaign, and an open civil war have all contributed to a weaker party. These failings, among countless others, have left the party vulnerable and have strengthened President Obama's political position -- to the point where he can win almost any political battle in which he chooses to participate.
But, just because he can win doesn't mean he should fight.
I fear that President Obama has decided to fight every battle with the goal of crushing the opposition, rather than seeking conclusions that benefit the American people. His decision to continually campaign, rather than govern, could have negative and lasting consequences on our country.
The recent stalled discussions regarding the sequester, a poorly coordinated 2.4 percent immediate cut to the U.S. budget, is just another example of a fight that wasn't necessary. Over the past few years, I would lay much of the blame for congressional deadlock on Republicans, as they have stalled and blocked and filibustered; but this time is different.
The problem is this: Mr. Obama may win every battle, and yet our country may end up losing. Bob Woodward, the respected journalist who took down a powerful Republican president, has asserted that President Obama has "moved the goalposts" in his final sequester proposal. Mr. Woodward has had more access to negotiations than any other outsider and has interviewed countless individuals on both sides of the aisle. With this trove of insight forming his conclusions, he believes Mr. Obama has negotiated in a way that was not in the best interest of the American people.
From Woodward, we know that McConnell and Boehner agreed to extend the fiscal cliff beyond the election with the understanding that either the sequester would go forward or Congress would find more appropriate cuts (not tax increases). Now that the time for sequestration has come, Mr. Obama has decided to he wants to use this new "crisis" as a political football. Rather than proposing a new set of targeted cuts or agreeing to Republican suggestions -- as he led Congress to believe he would. Instead, President Obama has proposed closing tax loopholes (which functionally amounts to raising taxes).
In the final weeks before the sequester deadline, President Obama campaigned furiously, blaming republicans for the cuts and calling for them to compromise. However, he, too, refused to compromise, as he proposed a sequester alternative that he knew the Republicans could not accept. After acquiescing to his demands just two months earlier, he knew it would be politically impossible for them to raise taxes again, yet he was unwilling to yield in his proposals. He then proceeded to use scare tactics (as Bush did with his war on terrorism) to increase support for his position.
As president, Obama has the power and he is winning the argument. In a purely political sense, this fight has been very good for him and his party. He has considerable public support and does not need the "political win" the sequester could provide, so why play hardball and risk the country's well being? Rather than using the trust he has built to win the war for America, Obama decided he wanted to use his capital to win a fight with unpopular Republicans.
Public opinion seems to be indicating that the president has won this battle, as he has won the last several battles with Congress. The problem is this: one crisis after another is having a cumulative negative effect on the people of America, on the economy, on consumer confidence, on credit ratings -- on everything! The economy only grew by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 and looks to be stalling. Now is the time for the president to use his popularity and his position to do more than win political arguments.
Obama is winning the battle but America is losing the war.