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by Jules Witcover
In President Obama's running argument with the Republicans in
He did it again in his embarrassing cave-in to
In so doing, he invited allegations of crumbling to legislators more concerned about getting to and from their states than solving the fiscal sequester nightmare paralyzing the government.
The episode was particularly damaging to Obama by casting him as willing to single out the complaints of well-heeled frequent fliers for remedy. Meanwhile the rest of the American public -- and especially the lower-income and middle-class folks -- continued to suffer most from the across-the-board budget slashes dictated by the sequester.
At the outset, Obama gambled that the wrong-headed plan to apply an indiscriminate budget ax would shame or otherwise force the Republicans to deal with him on a combination of deficit reduction and economic stimulus. Unfortunately for him, many in the opposition party saw the sequester's deficit reduction as more than OK with them, even if it meant cutting previously sacrosanct defense spending.
The political trouble began with the insignificant but sensitive cutting off of
That is, until the man in the Oval Office, who said its awfulness would be so awful that
With that stroke of the presidential pen, he let the air out of his huffing and puffing about the killer sequester. And with the flying public, conspicuously including members of
After Obama's frustrated first-term efforts to work with the opposition party of
In new second-term drives for stronger gun-control measures and a more vocally muscular foreign policy, he stumped energetically for the first and spoke of red lines and game-changers about U.S. engagement in Syria regarding the second. But gun control fell short and his seeming backpedaling on Syria has muddled his foreign-policy message.
Already the administration is seen as looking down the road to the 2014 congressional elections as the president's best chance to salvage significant political gains in his last two
As in the last five years, Barack Obama has struggled to gain the offensive against a dug-in
The whole scene is beginning to resemble World War I trench warfare. Both sides are grinding themselves down in a similar exercise in mutual -- and willful -- self-destruction, with an earnest but frustrated president increasingly hunkered down as well.
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