Shoving the battle down the road

President Barack Obama arrives at the lectern to deliver remarks after the House of Representatives acted on legislation intended to avoid the "fiscal cliff" at the White House, Washington DC, 1 January 2013 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The president's tone was not conciliatory - he has had it with "Kum ba yah"

Step back from the cliff, and take in the panorama.

By all means breath a sigh of relief that America's drama-addicted politicians didn't plunge their own country and the rest of the world into uncertain, choppy economic waters.

But also survey the battlefield, and reflect that the president seems to have developed a relish for the fight.

Be in no doubt Mr Obama has won a victory and the Republicans in the House have been forced to back down, and are left fuming and divided.

One of Obama's core messages in the election was that the richest Americans must pay more in tax.

The heart of this deal was a new higher tax rate for those earning more than $400,500 as a family.

It is true he had to raise his definition of "rich" considerably - he initially wanted those earning over $250,000 to pay more.

Some on the left see this as weak and a signal to their opponents that if pushed Obama gives way.

This seems to me rather ridiculous - in negotiations there has to be give and take.

The Republicans' core message in the election was the need for drastic spending cuts. They won not a single cut. Not even a tiny, symbolic one.

Of course that battle has just been shoved two months' down the road. Perhaps then it will be their turn to win a famous victory, and so even the score card.

But the president's tone after the vote was not conciliatory. He was almost cocky. This man has had it with "Kum ba yah". He may leave that to the old pals, Biden and McConnell, in future.

He warned Republicans spending cuts couldn't be at the expense of (take a deep breath to read the whole shopping list) investment in infrastructure, investment in jobs, education, training, research or new technology.

It had to be "balanced" - code for "if our people take a hit, yours will pay more taxes".

He gave a stern warning that they were not to play games with the debt limit - America would pay the bills it had racked up.

He told them there had to be less drama. He said that all this couldn't be at the expense of plans for immigration reform, gun laws or legislation on climate change. This could be bravado. It could be dangerous over confidence.

But it does suggest a man with a mandate, with an agenda and the stomach to fight for it.

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