Donald Lambro

The president's surrender in the debt-ceiling battle was the latest in a long line of cave-ins in the face of stiff Republican opposition. He caved last December on extending all of the Bush tax cuts. He threw in the towel when the GOP threatened to shut down the government if it did not extract additional budget cuts. And now his concessions on the debt-ceiling offsets.

"Maybe it's just me, but I see a pattern here," groused New York Times economic columnist Paul Krugman, who is one of the president's fiercest critics on the left.

"It is, of course, a political catastrophe for Democrats, who just a few weeks ago seemed to have Republicans on the run over their plan to dismantle Medicare; now Mr. Obama has thrown all that away," Krugman wrote Sunday.

The Republicans didn't get all of what they wanted, either, but they managed to extract probably as much as they could in this round -- though there will be many more rounds to come.

"Did we get 100 percent of the discretionary cuts we were looking for? No, we got two-thirds" of what House Republicans had sought in their fiscal 2012 budget plan, said Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

This deal still leaves a mountain of entitlement debt ahead of us that is only going to grow exponentially over the next 10 years if Congress does not reform Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The bipartisan 10-member panel that this week's legislation creates may tackle Medicare, but that remains to be seen.

And it's important to remember that this budget-cutting deal is not written in stone. A new Congress can repeal or change any part of it, and make deeper and more sweeping cuts in the years ahead. This agreement does not end the power of the appropriations committees.

The Republicans clearly won this round in the continuing battle of the budget, even with the Democrats tenuously holding the White House and controlling the Senate with a vulnerable four-seat margin.

But with Obama's economy on the brink of another recession, his job-approval scores stuck in the low 40s, and a bleak employment situation facing us this year and next, the political landscape clearly favors the GOP in 2012.


Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.