|President Barack Obama at G20 Summit in Seoul, South Korea:Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images|
Reporting from Washington —
Three days after the midterm elections, senior Obama aides suggested to a gathering of liberal groups at the White House that they might need to scale back their expectations. In the wake of the big Republican win, there would be no new major legislative pushes from President Obama in 2011.
The mood, according to some participants at the meeting, was dour. Although the White House advisors said job creation would be a central goal, they did not lay out a concrete plan for putting more people to work. "There was an undercurrent of, 'Hey, folks. We're going to have to play some defense,'" said one attendee.
Since then, the sense of a president in a crouch has only deepened. Obama was unable to seal a long-anticipated free trade agreement with South Korea during his trip to Asia and was the odd man out at the Group of 20 summit over global economic strategy, where preferences for belt-tightening policies predominate.
When he returns to Washington, he faces an energized Republican opposition. The first issue will be whether to extend George W. Bush-era tax cuts, and Obama is already showing a willingness to compromise on his long-held position that the cuts should expire for families making more than $250,000 a year.
At a news conference Friday in Seoul, Obama bristled at reports that he was caving in to Republican pressure.
"It would be fiscally irresponsible for us to permanently extend the high-income tax cuts," he said. "I think that would be a mistake, particularly when we've got our Republican friends saying that their No. 1 priority is making sure that we deal with our debt and our deficit."
He added, though, that there "may be a whole host of ways to compromise around those issues."
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