The president was unable to fight back convincingly, and resorted to scare tactics about benefits to the sick and elderly not being paid if the ceiling wasn't raised. He did not sound like a man in control.
The episode has damaged his authority and dimmed his prospects of re-election in 2012. The Tea Party has succeeded in making spending the dominant issue in Washington, even over job creation and the immediate recovery. But the movement played a large part in dragging the country to the brink of disaster, and many voters in the middle ground may not forgive them for that.