Make no mistake. President Obama's support for an extension of the Bush tax cuts is born out of the reality that his re-election is now less than two years away, and by the minute he is losing those independent voters who voted for him in 2008.
But you know the old saw: Sometimes you have to dance with the ones who brung you to the dance. The president is stuck waltzing about with a Democratic House and Senate whose members learned nothing from the November elections.
Both chambers in the Capitol this week looked more like holding tanks for the insane. Yes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi begrudgingly allowed the tax compromise to move forward. But then many on her side of the partisan aisle -- a number of whom were defeated in November -- took verbal shots at the bill, even after it passed the Democratically controlled Senate.
All this was troublesome enough for the Democrats' already tarnished image with the American public. But then came the next humdinger, the federal budget. Its passage again and again has been delayed. When it finally did pass, it amounted to a giant Christmas present for the chosen recipients of more than 6,000 earmarks.
Moreover, Majority Leader Harry Reid -- the worst possible spokesperson for the Senate Democratic caucus -- insisted that the nearly 2,000 pages of the bill's largely unread contents be shoved through Congress in just a few days. Reid apparently believes that after he dodged a political bullet by eking out his re-election bid in Nevada, he and his party in Congress can continue to play the same old game of hide the ball that Reid himself mastered long ago.
Obama, too, has probably not changed his core liberal political philosophy. His willingness to compromise on the Bush tax cuts simply showed that, like all good politicians, he's doing what it takes to survive. Unfortunately for him, as he inches to the middle of the road, he is getting sideswiped by both Democrats in the left lane and Republicans in the right lane.
The most comical happening of the dizzying last few weeks was when Obama brought Bill Clinton into the White House press room with him and then exited to attend a White House Christmas party.
For the next half-hour or so, Clinton made us remember what it was like to have a real president. The old master leaned on the podium as if it were a long-lost easy chair and took the press conference to a new level. He called on various reporters by name, and he covered subjects far beyond just the tax compromise. And yet again America witnessed an example of President Obama being upstaged by someone in his own party.
It's never safe to predict presidential elections two years out. An economy that now looks dire could be blossoming into a time of brisk economic growth by then. Other issues could arise or disappear.
But this much is clear: Obama needs to prompt all those left-wing ideologues in the White House to close their political science books long enough to get their man back into the real world.
And just think what the president gets to look forward to next year with the swearing in of the new Congress. Pelosi will still be the leader of the House Democrats, although she and the caucus will then be in the minority. And Reid will still be majority leader of Senate, although the Democrats in that chamber will also have diminished power. If these two supposed leaders don't change their ways, they will guarantee Obama a one-term presidency.
Behind the scenes, the arguments of Pelosi, Reid and others is that Obama's liberal base of voters has become disenchanted with him and may not support him for re-election if he no longer toes the leftist line. But where else can these voters go in 2012? There's not a chance in a hundred that a potential presidential candidate with views to the left of Obama could ever win the presidential general election.
Beyond that, it's almost certain that whoever the GOP nominates for president will be fierier and more conservative than John McCain was in 2008.
For years when I was actively involved in Republican politics, we used to joke that the GOP eats its young. Nowadays, we can say that the Democrats consume one another regardless of age or rank.
If they don't leave their dinner knives back home when they return to Washington in January, they will cannibalize their own party and utterly destroy their own president.