The politics seem equally uncertain. Democrats have been almost united in their belief that extending Bush tax cuts for the wealthy was verboten. Now they're being asked to swallow their positions. Many don't want to. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who caucuses with Democrats, has vowed to filibuster the measure if it comes before the Senate. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., has likened the president's deal to "punting on third down"--that Obama gave up too early. Republicans, on the other hand, have been praising the deal and did not have to swallow one of their orthodoxies: Never raise taxes.
When asked by a reporter from National Journal if Republicans still had considerable leverage in the form of the debt ceiling, Obama said that he took presumptive House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, "at his word."
"Nobody--Democrat or Republican--is willing to see the full faith and credit of the government collapse," the president said.
With Democrats giving more, it's not surprising that Obama himself said that he "wanted to speak especially to my fellow Democrats" and he made his case repeatedly that the current deal was the best he could get given GOP opposition, that it had many positive elements such as the tax cuts for the rich only being temporary. But he hardly gave wavering Democrats good reason for retreating from a position that he and his party members have long held.
In one of the most emotional displays by a president at a news conference in recent memory, Obama denounced those who failed to compromise saying that they were "sanctimonious."
"People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are, and in the meantime, the American people are still seeing themselves not able to get health insurance because of preexisting conditions Or not being able to pay their bills because their unemployment insurance ran out," Obama railed.
For good measure, he added: "That can't be the measure of how we think about our public service. That can't be the measure of what it means to be a Democrat."
CORRECTION: The original version of this report misspelled Rep. Anthony Weiner's name.
George E. Condon Jr., Rebecca Kaplan, and Ben Terris contributed