Nothing 'super' about committee's failure

An intriguing proposal was made Monday by two former Democratic pollsters who believe President Obama has become so hobbled by Republican opposition that he cannot govern effectively and should abandon his bid for reelection.

The failure of the congressional supercommittee to trim the federal deficit is the latest example of Obama’s inability to make a deal with Republicans. The panel waited until the stock markets closed Monday to announce it had given up on a 10-week attempt to save $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

Americans had hoped the smaller supercommittee could conquer the partisan divide that prevented Congress from agreeing to a budget-deficit deal during the summer. Instead, the committee mirrored Congress in arguing over the proper mix of tax increases and spending cuts.

Writing for the Boston Globe, former Sen. John E. Sununu (R., N.H.) blamed Obama. “In a brilliant stroke of irony, the president lectured European leaders recently that the euro crisis ‘is a problem of political will.’ This from a president who ignored his own deficit commission,” said Sununu.

It’s true that Obama gave too little support to the earlier bipartisan commission, which in a divided vote recommended cutting the federal deficit by $4 trillion by 2020 with a cap on discretionary spending, a tax-code overhaul, and changes to Social Security, including raising the retirement age — not exactly choices favored by his Democratic base.

Republicans blamed that dynamic for the latest commission’s failure, saying Democrats were unwilling to cut Social Security and Medicare. Democrats said the supercommittee failed because Republicans wouldn’t exempt the wealthy from any extension of the Bush-era tax cuts.

With the tax cuts scheduled to expire next year, that issue could become the key to the presidential election — which is exactly what some people want. “We’ll run against their tax increase, and we’ll crush them,” said political strategist Grover Norquist, whose antitax pledge has been taken by many Republican officeholders.

Such comments are why former Jimmy Carter pollster Patrick H. Caddell and Bill Clinton pollster Douglas E. Schoen wrote a Wall Street Journal column that said Obama should follow the example of Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson, who “accepted the reality that they could not effectively govern the nation if they sought reelection.”

It’s true that it won’t get any easier for Obama. But his foes aren’t likely to compromise just because he wouldn’t be the Democrat running for the White House. Obama didn’t try as hard as he could have to get a deficit deal. If Americans start believing he is incapable of cultivating common ground to move this country forward, his fate will be sealed.