Tuesday, December 07, 2010

President's Defiance Is Welcome, Even If Most of It Is Directed At The Left

My favorite lines:

"The Republicans are hostage-takers." The hostages are the American people. Considering the "collateral damage" of standing up to their demands, Mr. Obama's choice was to capitulate. Okay, at least as a Latino saying goes, he's CHARGING Republicans the cost of being "hostage-takers." That Ed Rollins got hot under the collar (representing GOP views) at least is a moral victory for the leader of the Democratic Party on behalf of all Democrats. Small "v" victory but at least the President was in their face, for once.

Most puzzling line: I read the polls, "the American people are on my side of the argument." Then why in the world didn't you press your advantage, Mr. President? Why all the early deference to your opponents. This was a great presser, sir, but it was the first I recall in which you came out swinging, defiant, decisive, presidential, mostly against the Left, but we'll take it.

The question is, where was this President Obama when the debate was being dominated by the narrative of Republican intransigence? Why give up all your negotiating power at the start, then rally in the end, when it's a done deal? With all due respect, Mr. President, that's not what they would have said of FDR, in characterizing the Social Security debate. When you say of your rich adversaries (one of them, reactionary comic Stephen Colbert mocked you saying, "face it Mr. President, Republicans are just not that into you") as FDR did, "I welcome their hatred," then you can claim FDR's mantle.

Funniest Line: "This is a big, diverse country. Not everybody agrees with us. I know that shocks people. The New York Times editorial page does not permeate across all of America." That editorial page said, "Mr. Obama still seems coolly unperturbed about Republican intransigence." At this moment in Mr. Obama's presidency it's somewhat astonishing that we'd be celebrating the notion the President's persona finally switched from Mr. Spock to Captain Kirk. 

Second funniest line (for me) chiding the Left: "This is the public option debate all over again." I love this line. President Obama's argument, taking the long view, is that if we don't get the public option this time around, we'll get it sometime down the road. We don't share the President's optimism. Not with this Republican Party. That's why we cautioned President Obama from the very beginning he would get nowhere trying to reach out to Republicans on healthcare; only weaken the final product. That is exactly what happened. 

Our argument was and continues to be, once we lost this fight to corporate money and entrenched special interests, it's gone, deep-sixed, finito, kaput. FDR essentially passed his New Deal programs unsullied by huge concessions to special interests because of his unique leadership skills and capacity to hold the party together and strongly make his case to the American people. No one back in 1934 was talking about defunding the SEC the way Republicans are talking of emasculation the modest Consumer Financial Protection Agency today; no one then was talking of repeal of Social Security the way the GOP is talking of repealing healthcare today. Successfully defending their "holy grail" is a measure of presidential leadership. Great presidents, such as FDR and TR, laid down their markers then took the necessary steps to protect them. You don't do it being overly deferential and conciliatory to those who would destroy you, Mr. President, nor compromising without a fight.

Because the result is, even if you think in your heart you've gotten the best deal for the American people, you still lose the argument once the perception is you've been rolled by the opposition. Mr. President, this isn't a labor negotiation in which you hold a weak hand. We have yet to see you make full and effective use of the bully pulpit. Today's presser was a good start. Even if the presidential ire directed at progressives would best be aimed at Republicans.

Cost to our deficit: $900 billion. How come no one raised this thorny factoid in the presser?

No comments: