What were the odds? What were the odds that after victoriously decamping from the campaign battlefield on which blundered American history's most incompetent nominee ever that President Obama would instantly confront a ragtag mob of unreconstructed Republicans so ineffably goofy that they can't even recognize a victory of their own?
All great and near-great presidents have enjoyed extraordinary luck in the almost absurdly self-limiting character of their enemies--the phenomenon seems to be a metaphysical fact of historical justice--but Obama's luck is just downright breathtaking. On the fiscal cliff he offers "significant, arguably unnecessary concessions," as the NYT's Andrew Rosenthal puts it, to his lone and inescapably cornered foe, who then promptly rejects the unwarrantable gift by cooking up instead a whoppingly undigestible loser of a "Plan B" that leaves everyone in inexpressible bewilderment. (I was on the road nearly all of yesterday, or I would have chortled then.)
In the historical question of "presidential luck" there does indeed rest, I would argue, a kind of logical symmetry, referenced above as a "metaphysical fact." But when you think about it, it's not so metaphysical. Great and near-great presidents achieved their status because they happened to be on the right side of history; whereas their foes, it follows, were on the wrong side of history--and the latter was generally true because said foes simply weren't all that bright. From Lincoln's inbred Southern bullies to FDR's fascist thugs, the opponents of presidential greatness were who and what actually made those presidents great (which is not, I hasten to add, to take away the genius of Lincoln or Roosevelt).
Thus, President Obama, we give you Boehner, McConnell & Co.