Who Do You Love?
Hey Mr. President, why the long face? This was the general opinion of pundits after the November elections. They all seemed to say that Obama looks like a defeated man. That he looks dejected. That he had lost hope. I think that was the face of a man confronted with decisions he did not want to make but knew he would have to. Because immediately after the election the Republicans threw down the gauntlet and declared no compromise on any Democratic agenda item. In fact, as the title of this column suggests, they have been actively undermining this Presidency since he was inaugurated in January of 2009.
And make the decision he did. In a Faustian bargain President Obama cut a deal with the Republicans on the soon to expire Bush tax cuts. And then everybody’s head exploded. If you visit any left leaning website comment section on articles about the tax cut deal like firedoglake.com or the Huffington Post, the level of anger and vitriol towards the President is pretty intense. And there are even Republicans who are mad about this.
The comments run the gamut of ‘I wasted my vote’ variety to ‘Shoulda been Hillary’ types. Congressman Anthony Weiner; using the football analogy, shot President Obama a note asking why we always seem to punt on third down indicating that we had at least one more play against the obstructionist Republicans. Critics have been screaming from the rooftops for the President to abandon the search for the bi-partisan unicorn. In a rare instance of my disagreement with his perspective, Keith Olbermann let out a scathing Special Comment on the topic last night.
The President has likened this to the debate over the public option back in the health care reform days. Compromising on that generated a lot of anger even though it netted the most significant health care reform in 100 years. He is defending this tax cut compromise on similar grounds. It is apparent that President Obama has the long game in mind.
The Republicans have used every dirty trick in the book to block any progress. So why is everybody mad at the president? Would Hillary have done anything differently? Could she? Could anyone? History often looks more favourably on what you accomplished, not what you prevented.
Ask yourself this question:
Given the current economic environment, if President Obama had declared that he would not sign off on any bill with extension of the tax cuts for the rich, does anyone really believe the Republicans would have caved? Further, in that scenario, does anyone really believe the Republicans would have cooperated on DADT, START, DREAM, extension of unemployment, or any other item on the agenda? *
President Obama saw a crack in the defense and went for it. As he noted the other day, taking the principled stand would have netted nothing; gridlock. The Republicans have consistently demonstrated that they will do anything to defeat President Obama even if it means making the middle class suffer. Even if it means putting the country in danger; wait, scratch that, the world in danger by blocking the START treaty that has already been agreed to by Russia.
But President Obama presides over all Americans; not just the Democratic Americans and he is forced to make policy decisions that don’t necessarily gain him any political capital but result in something, anything being accomplished, the results of which may not be immediately apparent.
I don’t like this hostage situation any more than anyone else. I didn’t like that the public option was sacrificed either but I was pleased that I might one day be able to get health care.
So to those of you angry with the President’s dancing with Mephistopheles, I implore you to remember why he felt it was a necessary bargain to make. The Republicans are the ones who block everything. It is the Republicans who almost sent the world into financial ruin. It is the Republicans who tell you they are fiscally responsible while skimming from the till. It is the Republicans who make policy demands for corporate and wealthy benefactors and block legislation for regular Americans. It is the Republicans who are willing to gamble your security in order to regain power. That’s where your anger should be directed.
And why are you angry with President Obama again? He’s like the one knight we sent to do battle with the dragon who returned to tell us he couldn’t slay the beast but at least it will not destroy the village. I suggest the people’s anger is genuine and warranted yet misdirected. The Republicans are the real enemy. If you really want to stop Republicans from burning down the house, vote them out in 2012. If you didn’t vote in this past election…well, there be dragons to slay.
* I should note that none of this may come to pass anyway since it has yet to come to a vote in Congress.