Michael Barone

Reality strikes. Barack Obama spurned the advice of columnists Paul Krugman and Katrina vanden Heuvel and agreed with Republicans to extend the current income tax rates -- the so-called Bush tax cuts -- for another two years.

He got a few things in return, primarily extended unemployment benefits for another 13 months, and agreed as well to a 2 percent cut in the Social Security payroll tax.

But he recognized the reality that in order to prevent a tax increase on those with incomes under $250,000 he had to prevent a tax increase on those over that line, as well.

This has infuriated liberal Democrats like outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but they share some of the blame themselves. They probably could have passed their version of the tax bill earlier this year, before the economic recovery stalled in the spring.

But with the economy faltering, there's a strong argument against raising anyone's taxes -- strong enough to have persuaded many congressional Democrats.

Obama had to abandon his goal of raising taxes on high earners not because Republicans opposed it but because not enough Democrats supported it. Pelosi couldn't summon up a majority on the issue back in September, and Harry Reid could get only 53 of the needed 60 votes this month.

Democrats, not Republicans, are responsible for extension of all the "Bush tax cuts."

Still, Obama in his surly statement Monday evening and his unusually brief press conference Tuesday afternoon, was at pains to attack Republicans.

The president who first came to national attention for expressing respect for those with whom he differed insisted that he was eager to "fight" Republicans and described them as "hostage takers," with the American people as hostages. Not much evidence of civility.

And he addressed most of his remarks to what last month's election revealed as a narrow segment of the nation's electorate, the Democratic base.

Over the years, I've noticed that politicians tend to view the whole nation through the prism of their electoral base, even when they know it's not typical. On Monday and Tuesday, Obama seemed to be aiming his remarks at the 13th state Senate district of Illinois, which he designed and which is about 60 percent black and 25 percent gentry liberal, not to the political independents who supported him and his party in 2008 and then went heavily Republican last month.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM