Obama’s evolution: Behind the failed ‘grand bargain’ on the debt


By Peter Wallsten, Lori Montgomery and Scott Wilson – To the outside world, it looked like a do-nothing summer Sunday, a disturbingly quiet reminder of government dysfunction. The prevailing theme on the weekly political talk shows was things falling apart. In two weeks, the government would be unable to pay its bills. No meetings were taking place at the White House that day, one network host said.

The reality was quite different. Around 11 a.m. July 17, John A. Boehner, the House speaker, and Eric Cantor, the majority leader, had slipped through a side entrance, out of view from the bank of television cameras stationed near the front gate off Pennsylvania Avenue. The on-and-off secret negotiations were on again.

The actions of Obama and his staff during that period in the summer reflect the grand ambitions and the shortcomings of the president’s first term.

A president who promised to bring the country together, who confidently presented himself as the transformational figure able to make that happen, now had his chance. But, like earlier policy battles, the debt ceiling negotiations revealed a divided figure, a man who remained aloof from a Congress where he once served and that he now needed. He was caught between his own aspirations for historical significance and his inherent political caution. more> http://tinyurl.com/75rnl6p

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