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White House Disarray: Will Obama Compromise on Tax Cuts, or Not?

Yesterday morning, the White House enraged its liberal base by signaling a willingness to extend President Bush's lower tax rates for every American, including the wicked rich:

Obama’s top political adviser, David Axelrod, said Wednesday that the White House has to deal with “the world of what it takes to get this done” — a signal to Democrats that they don’t have the votes to kill the high-end tax cuts in the face of a new Republican House majority and resistance from Democratic moderates in the Senate.

“We have to deal with the world as we find it,” Axelrod told the Huffington Post.

Now, whiplash:

Senior White House adviser David Axelrod said this morning that President Obama has not caved to GOP demands on the extension of the Bush tax cuts, despite a report to the contrary.

“We're willing to discuss how we move forward,” Axelrod said in an e-mail to National Journal rebutting a Huffington Post story. “But we believe that it's imperative to extend the tax cuts for the middle class, and don't believe we can afford a permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.”

This contradiction strikes me as the result of a wrenching internal debate within the White House.  On one hand, advisers are likely admonishing the president to tack to the center following the "shellacking" Democrats suffered on November 2.  On the other hand, the president's impulses are almost uniformly Left-wing, and his liberal core constituency has no appetite for compromise.  The question of which side emerges victorious from this struggle may well determine whether the president is re-elected in the 2012 campaign -- which will be here before we know it, whether we like it or not.

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