John Quiggin, in a post well worth reading which attacks Cowen's apologies for rising inequality and falling socioeconomic mobility in the USA, makes the following observation:
I don’t buy the 11-dimensional chess version of this story, but the slapdown of Obama’s painfully sincere attempts to reach across the aisle was exactly what was needed.
I agree. I don't think it was Obama's plan to invite an obduracy which would legitimise a more combative advocacy of his positions. Further, I think it long overdue that he counteract Republican views with an alternative vision which, in addition to being more humane, more restorative of a social contract and more likely to improve the economy, is actually based on fact and logic. But nobody can say that he didn't try. And now, he's set out an agenda which, in all likelihood, will be blocked entirely, without anything of substance in its stead, and will get to talk about it all campaign long. Meanwhile, Gingrich and Romney, tearing into each other, legitimise a Democratic attack on either on identical grounds, with ample opportunity to put up YouTube clips using them as surrogates.
It's worth pointing out, too, that Iran's theocrats rebuffed Obama's offer of talks, legitimising a sterner stance not just from Obama, but from the rest of the world. In the context of Obama's recognition, made explicit in his Cairo speech, that the Iranian people and Iran's government are quite two things. Highly important and, assuming (a big assumption) that neither the USA nor Israel use force, simultaneously opposing the government and offering Iran's people hope. A bigger contrast with Bush could hardly be imagined.