On this latter point we seem to have a somewhat different perspective. Noam thinks that Obama is signaling, again, that he'll always back down and that that emboldens Republicans to be even more reckless and aggressive during the next confrontation in which the consequences are actually much more dire. My take is more that the next confrontations simply come on terrain much more favorable to the GOP -- since Obama will no longer have the tax cudgel over them. So similar conclusion but different reasoning to get there.
For all of you trying to figure out what the unseen force is that prompted President Obama to take this deal now rather than simply go over the cliff and be in an even better position post-cliff, I think I have a good answer for you. All the arguments about Obama caving and being a bad negotiator and all the rest leave out one simple and fairly sufficient factor -- Obama really wants a deal. That means more than it sounds like it means. He doesn't want a deal at all costs. That greatly overstates it. But a deal to some real degree for the sake of finding common ground and having a deal is a big consideration for him. That's not my personal disposition or the way I meet the world. But it is his. And once you get that, the storyline starts to make more sense.
As I noted before -- in this post and the one from this afternoon -- it all comes back to the debt ceiling. He says that's not negotiable. That's exactly the right position. But it's much much easier said than done. Whether and how he's able to pull that off will tell us everything about whether or not this deal made sense.