Whenever Obama does something we don’t like, proposing to cut Social Security benefits in exchange for larger tax revenues, for example, liberals like me debate whether he’s selling us out or engaging in political jujitsu, hence the perpetual question about whether the President is playing 11-dimensional chess. This question is based on a fundamental misconception. You don’t get to pick the game. It isn’t dealer’s choice. Politics is always vastly more complicated than the cartoon version we run in our heads, where all the villains line up on one side and all the heroes on the other and the interests, prejudices, and principles of the two parties are internally coherent if only you look at them from the correct perspective. In fact, there are a great many animals in the tide pool and even the minority of them that have backbones exhibit only provisional loyalties to alliances which, in the nature of things, are always temporary. Is Obama playing 11-dimensional chess? Of course he is. The question is whether he’s playing it very well.