Now here's a not unfamiliar lede:
The budget scoreboard so far: Republicans 1, Democrats 0.
Democrats threw in the towel Friday, just two days after delivering a chest-thumping rejection of the GOP plan to ...
Etc., etc., and so on. You know the story, the pattern, the altogether recognizable disgust in the pit of your sickened stomach.
True, there is (possibly) a strategic upside to this seeming abomination of a cave-ation: "Senior Senate aides say that by averting a shutdown over the short-term bill, Democrats have positioned themselves as responsible stewards of government spending, which will help them when the two sides grapple with the longer-term budget and raising the statutory limit on the national debt."
But the appearance is grim. Quite grim. "What’s the use of a hard line," asked one Democratic aide, "if you’re going to back off it in two minutes? These guys are the worst at playing chicken that I’ve ever seen."
Which reminds me of that underlying difficulty that has awaited Obama before his every turn: In their fatiguing complaints about the president's "timidity," progressive activists too often neglect that he has from the start been burdened by an essentially conservative Congress -- one that is itself decidedly timid.
"Democrats in Congress didn’t have clear backing from a White House anxious to avoid the political risk of a shutdown," writes Politico's Jonathan Allen -- although "economic," not "political" risk, would have been more accurate -- "and they faced serious pushback from some of the 23 Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2012."
Just as they, and the president, faced serious pushback from Senate Democrats up for reelection in 2010.
Obama's is not timidity; it is, rather, an intelligent balancing of progressive desires with conservative realities.