Not since Abe Lincoln took office has a president's political opposition been so ruthlessly determined to oppose — even to the point of national disloyalty, which is precisely what the GOP's treacherous machinations over the debt limit represent. It is futile to look back on Obama's first two years and speculate that he should have done this, or that he should have done that, and then this or that might have proceeded better; it is futile because whatever path Obama might have chosen, his opposition was acrobatically hellbent on obstructing it.
I don't disagree. But I think Obama's core fiscal position is strong enough to have dominated the politics of this all year if he'd come out strong early. He would have exposed the Tea Party faction as less responsible with respect to debt reduction than he is. He punted. Maybe because he didn't want to enrage the Democrats too soon. Maybe because these are the terms on which he wants to fight for re-election.
And when you think about it, it's a pretty powerful electoral choice for Obama: do you want to cut the debt by spending cuts alone, as the GOP does; or do you favor a balanced approach with the wealthy sharing some of the burden, as in Tory Britain? Maybe that's the long game. Showing how irrational and extremist the GOP is can be more effective than merely asserting it.
Remember Obama's core political skill: goading his enemies to self-destruct. It may be that the GOP's rejection of the Boehner proposal is that moment. And remember his constant ability to look completely on the ropes and pull something off. Probably wishful thinking at this point, but I can allow myself the audacity of hope sometimes, can't I?