At his press conference just now, President Obama explained that he was compromising with the Republicans on a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for the highest incomes, in order to avert the expiration of all the tax cuts that would result in across-the-board tax increases at a tough time.
"Now if there was not collateral damage, if this was just a matter of my politics, or being able to persuade the American people to my side, then I would just stick to my guns," said Obama. "Because the fact of the matter is, the American people already agree with me. There are polls showing right now that the American people for the most part think it's a bad idea to provide tax cuts to the wealthy.
"But the issue is not me persuading the American people -- they're already there. The issue is, how do I persuade the Republicans in the Senate who are currently blocking that position? I have not been able to budge them. And I don't think there's any suggestion that anybody in this room thinks realistically that we can budge them right now. And in the meantime, there are a whole bunch of people being hurt, and the economy is being damaged."
Later on, Chuck Todd asked Obama how he would respond to Democratic criticism that he was rewarding the Republican strategy of intransigence.
"I've said before that I felt that the middle-class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts," Obama answered. "I think it's tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers -- unless the hostage gets harmed. Then, people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people, and I was not willing to see them get harmed.'