A man who is not gracious in victory or defeat is not to be trusted by anyone, most of all his most ardent supporters, his political base. Barack Obama, a man with no experience with the art of compromise, tried mightily to appear to have gone to the center of the tax code debate. He tried to appear as a centrist, to begin the process of winning back the independent voter. He cannot win re-election in 2012 without these independents, those that put him into office in 2008, who now lean conservative and vote for Republicans.
If you suggest, as the president did, that the seemingly moderate plan you agreed to is awful and you'll try to rescind it in two years, you won't leave the center thinking, "He's our guy!" You'll leave them thinking, "Note to self: Remove Obama in two years."
The problem is that Obama has lost everyone at this point in his presidency. Publicly, his party talks a good game of support for the man, not necessarily the politician or the leader of the party. Privately, the Democrats talk of the possibility of a challenger coming up in presidential primary season. The far left is not happy and the far left is Obama's political base. The far left hasn't not reconciled to the fact that the nation has firmly and loudly rejected the change brought forward by this administration. The radical liberal base of Barack Obama has been utterly disappointed by their guy.
The liberal base thought for sure they had it all in the disaster that is the health care reform package rammed through Congress on a final vote on Christmas Eve, 2009. Then there was the reality that the biggest point in their plan, the public option, was taken out in order to make the deal with more conservative Democrats. The bonus of abortions funded by the federal coffers was alleged to have been re-written to satisfy Democrats in more conservative districts.
A major new social entitlement program has never before been pushed through in Congress without bi-partisan support. The health care reform disaster has only Democratic votes to blame. There is some Obama change.
So, when President Obama held the press conference and out popped his angry man persona, he alienated everyone. The far left is shocked that Obama threw them under the bus again. How dare he compromise on the tax code extension. Then, in order to toss them a bone, he said he'd re-consider when the expiration has to be negotiated again in two years.
And, then, he referenced the public option that wasn't in the deal. He re-opened that wound. All along, he continued to refer to Republican opposition to his policies in terms of terrorist lingo, in terms like "holy grail" and the like, too. This is not how a leader speaks. This is not how the President of the United States leads the entire country, not just his own party.
So, the question remains - will Obama draw a challenger for the 2012 race? If so, as Peggy Noonan points out, it will come from his base. This is change, ironically. Modern day presidents who were challenged in re-election bids within their own party were always challenged by discontented party members from the get-go, not from the base.
There is only one Democrat who could possibly challenge Mr. Obama for the nomination successfully and win the general election, and that is Hillary Clinton. Who insists she doesn't want to.
What are the Democrats to do? If you are stuck with a president, you try to survive either with him or, individually, in spite of him. Some Democrats will try to bring him back. How? Who knows. But that will be a great Democratic drama of 2011: Saving Obama.
That is now the task dropped at the feet of the Democrats - get out there and sell the President as worthy of re-election.