The rush is on once again for immediate declarations of winners and losers after a showdown between the White House and the Congress. This time, the consensus winner is President Obama and the consensus loser is the tea-party wing of the Republican caucus. Even the staunchly conservative Breitbart website ran a story Thursday stating, “There is no question that, from a purely partisan point of view, Obama won.” The report asked, “[O]bjectively, did Obama win a political victory?” Its immediate answer was, “Yes.”
Other stories have predicted dire times for Republican Senate candidates in elections 13 months from now and even projected success for Democrats in the 2016 presidential race. But before looking that far ahead, a look backward suggests some caution on what Vice President Spiro Agnew first disparaged as “instant analysis,” particularly on something as nebulous as an agreement to kick the spending can down the road.
A look back on the 2011 and 2012 showdowns between the Obama White House and the Capitol Hill Republicans shows similar unanimity that the president had clearly bested Speaker John Boehner and the GOP. Obama had gotten the Republicans to agree to changes in the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and had managed to get the Republicans to accept the threat of sequester cuts in spending programs. Everybody agreed that the Republicans would never consent to implementation of those cuts because they included unacceptably low levels of military spending. In a debate with Republican Mitt Romney in 2012, the president gave voice to the D.C. conventional wisdom. “The sequester is not something that I proposed. It’s something that Congress has proposed,” said Obama. “It will not happen.”
Few disagreed with him, which is one of the reasons he was adjudged a winner in his fights with Congress. It was the conventional wisdom almost until the day the first round of the sequester cuts went into effect.
Another consensus “winner” in the past fights was Vice President Joe Biden. On Jan. 2 of this year, CNN.com carried a story hailing his role and suggesting it could help him become president some day. “Biden hasn’t ruled out a run for the White House when Obama’s second term is up,” wrote John Helton of CNN. “And his role in this deal makes a President Biden believable.”
But, again, the tide of opinion among Democrats on Capitol Hill shifted. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, among others, grew to believe Biden had given up too much. In this latest battle, Reid made sure that he was doing the negotiating with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Biden was sidelined.
Instant predictions are also limited because it is hard to imagine the many mistakes politicians can make in the future. CNN correctly cast House Republicans as losers in the fiscal-cliff showdown. But they suggested the caucus had hit rock bottom. “Could their reputation get any worse?” Ten months later, after a three-week government shutdown and a quixotic charge at Obamacare, the answer, surprisingly, is yes.
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With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:
- An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clinton leading Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary Johnson at 7%.
- A McClatchy-Marist poll gave Clinton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way ballot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
- Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shunning traditional debate preparations, but has been watching video of…Clinton’s best and worst debate moments, looking for her vulnerabilities.” Trump “has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers.”
Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."
Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."