By MARK PENN
Published August 2, 2011

The 11th hour budget deal may save the country from default but is unlikely to save either the president or the Republicans from continued political fallout for taking the country near the brink of financial calamity. While the 1996 budget deal made winners out of President Clinton and the Republicans, this deal offers a lot of frank lessons to be learned.

Lesson 1. President Obama should never have played the Republican game of letting the debt ceiling become a budget negotiation in the first place. Obama should have simply said that under no circumstances would he allow the GOP to turn a routine action by Congress into a high stakes negotiation on the scope of the federal government. Once he did, he was playing on the Republicans’ best field and at a disadvantage: the topic of the day shifted from fixing the economy to cutting the budget, playing into Republican hands. Considering the fact that Congress has raised the debt limit without condition 74 times since 1962, President Obama should have made it clear from the start that doing otherwise was not only unwise, but absolutely unacceptable. He should have kept the political spotlight on the Republicans for upsetting the nation’s credit rating and pushed the budget negotiations to budget time – without a threat of national default.

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