Maybe Gibbs was right after all

MAYBE GIBBS WAS RIGHT AFTER ALL…. Almost exactly three weeks ago, there was a slightly awkward exchange in the White House briefing room. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was sounding optimistic about the agenda for the lame-duck session, and ABC’s Jake Tapper expressed his skepticism.

TAPPER: So just to put a period on this, the president thinks that funding the government, passing unemployment-insurance extensions “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, the DREAM Act, tax cuts and START all can be done?

GIBBS: Yes.

TAPPER: In the next 18 days?

GIBBS: Yes.

TAPPER: Good luck.

GIBBS: Yes. Well, thank you. (Laughter.) Yeah, you’ll have a lot to cover.

In Tapper’s defense, it’s been 22 days, not 18.

But since that’s awfully close, CNN’s Paul Steinhauser notes today that Gibbs’ confidence actually stands up pretty well with the benefit of hindsight.

Indeed, it’s not quite finished yet, but has anyone ever seen such a prolific lame-duck session? Let’s see, there’s the tax deal, DADT repeal, New START, the most sweeping food-safety bill in 70 years, the Zadroga 9/11 health bill, the defense authorization bill, more than a few judicial nominee confirmations, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting.

Obviously, there were serious setbacks. The DREAM Act deserved an up-or-down vote, but fell to a Republican filibuster, and the failure of the omnibus was bad news.

But the victories in December are extremely important, and in some cases, even historic. After the midterms, the conventional wisdom was that President Obama was severely weakened, and shouldn’t expect to pass anything else on his to-do list for the rest of his term. Obviously, the rules of the game will change dramatically with the start of the new Congress, but after this lame-duck session, the president actually appears stronger now than he did before the election.