Andrew Sullivan on the incredibly tricky situation Obama faces negotiating with the Republicans on the 'fiscal cliff', and why it could define his second term:
Here's what I hope for: a Grand Bargain that raises the top rate permanently, and commits to a serious outline of a tax and entitlement reform package by this time next year. I'd also favor the new stimulus. Yes, upon reviewing the evidence here and abroad, especially that of my friends in the Coalition government in Britain, I now see the recession continuing as the greatest immediate threat to long-term fiscal health. A short boost now could lead to take-off next year, which would make the fiscal compromise a little easier.
I'd love Obama to be the president we wanted and be able to make a centrist deal before December 31 along these lines. There's a danger if he can't - the chance of a double-dip that would define his second term. I don't buy the argument that he has all the leverage, just most of it. My fear that his greatest strength as president is the long view; and his greatest weakness is being able to negotiate effectively. He's being tested now as never before.
Obama does have an incredibly annoying habit of negotiating from the center and allowing the Republicans to bully him further to the Right, but this time it does seem like the President is sticking to his guns. If he walks away with a good deal he'll have accomplished two things: 1. Gotten a much needed source of revenue from the tax increases to pay government bills, and 2. An impressive tactical victory over the GOP on an issue they have battered Obama on for much of his presidency (the debt ceiling for example).
If he wins, the economy has a better chance of success and thus his presidency. If he loses, we're set for a repeat of the last four years, and while Obama made some historic achievements, President's are marked on their stewardship of the economy above all else. And he needs to do a lot better than his last term if he wants to be remembered positively.