The River that Runs Though the Obama Presidency

House Republicans are willing to sacrifice the nation's well-being to defeat the president.

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If you're president, you like to think of a second term as a brand new slate, a brand new date, and dance with fate. The future historians everyone keeps talking about will have a chance to look at you anew.

But hey, it's not going to be that way for President Barack Obama.  He's not even getting a halftime for his January Inaugural. For reasons that escape me, his enemies in Congress (read: House Republicans) did not go gently into that mad midnight of the fiscal cliff. They voted in force against his deal—and against the greater good of the country. Again.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the fiscal cliff.]

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a truly dangerous state of affairs. It happened with the debt limit crisis in the late summer of 2011, when Obama made the weak deal that got him into this fix in the first place. The new year's midnight deadline was a kind of political blackmail that got House Republicans on the sane side of the debt limit crisis. But everyone knows it was a breath-taking close call.

2011 was a long hot summer for Obama, who is a stranger to the House and was a sojourner in the Senate. And 2013 is shaping up to be a long cold winter, because the debt limit will need to be raised again in about eight weeks. There's no reason to expect House Republicans will do well by the nation this time—they are like gangsters without the charm, and can't even dance.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the Republican Party.]

But here's what grieves me.  The template from the summer of 2011 seems to be setting up "house" in the second term.  Then, an inexperienced president negotiated a saving-face deal with House Speaker John Boehner for fear the nation would really default on the debt and plunge the globe into a financial crisis. OK, it was an emergency, but Obama did not fend off future strings—except to put off another showdown until after the election. Mind you, the Senate Republicans, led by the crafty Mitch McConnell, are no picnic for the president.

But dealing with the House Republicans on a rampage is like a river running through Obama's presidency.

  • See a collection of political cartoons on Congress.
  • Read the U.S. News Debate: Who Won the Fiscal Cliff Showdown?
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly: an insider's guide to politics and policy.