Tuesday 20 February 2018

Obama may have saved presidency despite debt 'win' for Republicans

The Right looks guilty of delaying key deal, while the president has won centre ground, writes Tim Stanley

The 11th hour deal struck between the Democrats and the Republicans to raise the US debt ceiling could save Barack Obama's presidency. At first glance, the details of the package suggest a Republican win: no rises in income tax and a commitment to cut up to $2.4 trillion in government spending. Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who was compelled to take such a tough stand in negotiations by conservative Tea Party congressmen within his caucus, said that his party got "98pc of what we wanted".

The consensus in the American press is that he's right, that the deal rings the death knell of what the 'New York Times' columnist Ross Douthat called "yet another failed presidency". Momentum should swing behind the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, be it a big-business patrician like Mitt Romney or a firebrand populist like Sarah Palin.

But appearances can be deceptive. In order to win the battle, the Republicans played a high-risk strategy. As a result, they may have lost the wider political war. The brinkmanship of the debt-ceiling talks has created a new narrative in American politics. In the popular mind, it has turned Obama from a liberal into a moderate, and the Republicans from free-market rationalists into economic vandals.

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