It has been difficult to watch how polarized U.S. politics has become in recent years, and especially how acrimonious and partisan the debate on the debt ceiling has been in Washington. Most of all, it has been painful to observe how President Obama seems to have been unable to lead from the front and forge a path forward. The Republican party has instead found a way to force the President into an unseemly compromise on spending cuts and has at the same time appeased its more conservative members who see the world in very simplistic terms. While most public opinion polls in the U.S. show that Americans prefer a balanced approach to managing the country's finances, an approach which would include taxing the wealthy and reducing military spending, politicians in Washington have so far been unable to craft a deal that matches public opinion. They have focused instead on winning partisan points. The country's party leaders appear to have sought ideological, self-interested victories instead of focusing on nation-building (or should I say "nation-saving"?). It appears the crisis has weakened President, who has found it exceedingly difficult to fix the political mess in Washington he said he wanted to clean up when he was elected.
It will be interesting to see, when we look back, whether this crisis proves the President lost his way or whether it shows him to be an understated but sophisticated leader.
> Ross Douthat writes in The New York Times that Obama is a "diminished president."
>Across the Atlantic, however, Tim Stanley at The Guardian newspaper sees things differently, arguing that Obama "looks like a winner." He says the President's passive approach has paid off and his centrist stance will help him in the next election.
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