“Grinding” is a word Obama returned to several times Saturday as he tried to empathize with Democrats who are frustrated with his administration and leaders in Congress. “Now we’re in the midst of not just advocating for change, not just calling for change — we’re doing the grinding, sometimes frustrating work of delivering change – inch by inch, day by day,” Obama said. – Politico
To hear Pres. Obama talk lately, a Democratic president with a solid majority in both Houses who came in with the press and the people at his feet and the world standing in ovation, is to hear a freaked out politician whose rhetoric is starting to resemble an historic political whi—-ine resembling the belch of a world champion beer guzzler.
But oh, the irony. Pres. Barack Obama is studying the presidency of William Jefferson Clinton. Let the cluck, cluck, clucking continue. When your own ass is on the line, how different things look in the mirror. Obama’s current plight even had him taking a page out of Bill Clinton’s How to Handle a Hecker handbook, when he took on protesters and actually defended Democratic policies. But that’s not Obama’s normal. From the much talked about “Education of President Obama,” by Peter Baker in the New York Times magazine today (emphasis added):
While proud of his record, Obama has already begun thinking about what went wrong – and what he needs to do to change course for the next two years. He has spent what one aide called “a lot of time talking about Obama 2.0” with his new interim chief of staff, Pete Rouse, and his deputy chief of staff, Jim Messina. During our hour together, Obama told me he had no regrets about the broad direction of his presidency. But he did identify what he called “tactical lessons.” He let himself look too much like “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat.” He realized too late that “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects” when it comes to public works. Perhaps he should not have proposed tax breaks as part of his stimulus and instead “let the Republicans insist on the tax cuts” so it could be seen as a bipartisan compromise.
Most of all, he has learned that, for all his anti-Washington rhetoric, he has to play by Washington rules if he wants to win in Washington. It is not enough to be supremely sure that he is right if no one else agrees with him. “Given how much stuff was coming at us,” Obama told me, “we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right. There is probably a perverse pride in my administration – and I take responsibility for this; this was blowing from the top – that we were going to do the right thing, even if short-term it was unpopular. And I think anybody who’s occupied this office has to remember that success is determined by an intersection in policy and politics and that you can’t be neglecting of marketing and P.R. and public opinion.”
“We probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right…”
That Pres. Obama doesn’t understand he got the policy and the politics wrong illustrates why Sarah Palin was able to hijack the debate in August 2009 then lead the Republicans to a short-term resurgence they wouldn’t have had without her and the Tea Party. Now, a lot of that energy is ugly and may cause long-term issues for Republicans, because 2010 isn’t predictive of 2012 (with the Florida and Ohio’s governor races the exception and the foreshadowing), but without Palin’s Tea Party the Right wouldn’t be where they are in the polls today, putting Democrats across the country on defense.
Barack Obama parroting a favorite right-wing talking point about “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” is a classic wink. Sounding very Rush-Sean-Bill Kristol, Pres. Obama is as fact challenged as they are. Reagan increased government spending. Bill Clinton brought it down. As for George W. Bush, well, without his overspending there might not be a Tea Party.
That Obama’s using the exact same line the Right uses illustrates that if Republicans do take the House he’ll have no trouble working with them if they so choose, though the ham-handed politically signalling makes the President look ridiculous. But as I’ve said before, with a Republican House Obama could even benefit, because the wingnut rants about his ideology are simply a canard, the typical patter the right uses about all Democrats, which many pundits regurgitate without bothering to invest in facts.
Obama is not only the great compromiser, but as he foreshadows Obama 2.0 in the Times interview, he’ll use the Right’s talking points, as he did against the Clintons in the ’08 primaries, to get ahead. Because as the “Education of President Obama” illustrates, he’s looking out for number one first.
The Time’s interview and pre-mortem of the coming midterm elections is stunning for too many reasons to innumerate, but mostly because it perpetuates the rightward slog by the Democratic Party under Mr. Obama, whose analysis of his current plight is as off as what Bill Kristol, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity deliver from the Right.
If Pres. Obama was “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” as he derides to the Times, the stimulus would have been a far reaching infrastructure package that resembled Kennedy’s moonshot goal. If Obama was “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” he wouldn’t have flinched in proposing, selling and cramming down (if he had to) legislation that would have seen a light rail system begun that would include fly-over country, but certainly high speed rails connecting cities across this county. If Obama was “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” he would then have gone on a national tour to sell it as the biggest jobs package in modern history. Of course, Mr. Obama did none of these things.
If Pres. Obama was “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” he would have challenged Congress to take up middle class tax cuts, because it’s the right thing for the people.
If Pres. Obama was “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” he would have backed a foreclosure moratorium without thinking twice.
If Pres. Obama was “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” that he obviously thinks is the worst of what politics on the Left has to offer, he wouldn’t have done a backdoor deal with BigPharma or health insurance companies, or allowed a deal with the Catholic Church that codified the Hyde amendment beyond a budget item that must be approved. If Obama was “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” he would have actually made a public fight for the public option, instead of killing it off while caving to Big Health Care by selling the American people into a mandated system that’s monopolized, but also allows for corporations like McDonalds and retailers to get exemptions from it. Someone who is a “same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” would have made sure the public option drove health care.
If Pres. Obama was “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” he would have also understood the importance of standing up for civil rights today not tomorrow. Mr. Obama wouldn’t have tolerated his closest adviser, Valerie Jarrett, giving an interview where she declared being gay is a “lifestyle choice,” which mimics what Tea Party candidate Ken Buck said today on “Meet the Press.”
Buck said Sunday that he thinks homosexuality is a choice, a remark that Bennet’s campaign immediately jumped on post-debate.
Asked during the debate if he believes that being gay is a lifestyle choice, Buck answered, “I do.”
When pressed on whether or not there is some element of biology, Buck said he believes, “you can choose who your partner is. I think that birth has an influence over it just like alcoholism and some other things.”
Of course, Ms. Jarrett’s comment in the interview with Jonathan Capehart, who sat like a potted plant when the “lifestyle choice” comment was made (also see mwfolsom’s diary), was followed by the usual “..I apologize to any who have taken offense at my poor choice of words…” political statement. Jarrett moonwalking her gaffe backwards when Capehart finally got off his ass and did his job, as people were trying to figure out how she “misspoke” while claiming to be a “firm believer and supporter” of gay rights. Jarrett’s comment a calously delivered line made possible through Capehart’s incompetence, because we all have to make sure not to alienate the bigots before midterms.
These are not the words or actions of an administration that resembles “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat,” but instead actually promotes this right-wing attack line about the Left.
Today, people are hanging on to unemployment benefits, food stamps, Medicare, and Social Security for dear life. The very same policies that put “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat(s)” in the lead on proving government’s importance to people, as well as its effectiveness in giving people a way to literally stay alive and keep a roof over their heads at the worst of times.
Sarah Palin and the Tea Party crowd use the same lines as Rush, Sean and Bill Kristol, which Obama validates with his “same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” talking points, because it fits the stereotype the Right has used against Dems forever at a time when the leader of the Democratic Party, the majority, as well as most Democratic elites won’t stand and make the fight for government’s purpose in times of crises, but instead are trying to outflank the Right.
Just this week the Democratic majority leader Sen. Harry Reid exalted Justice Antonin Scalia in a debate where he was out performed by his opponent, Tea Party candidate Sharron Angle, who wants to abolish Social Security.
Sarah, Rush, Sean, Bill Kristol, et al. are as off about Obama’s ideological bent as Pres. Obama, his administration and leadership is way off about their luke warm prescriptions for what is needed in this country, let alone what progressive policy actually looks like.
You simply cannot offer up a bad healthcare bill, which illustrates the worst of government intervention, to prove effectiveness. Half-measures manifest in legislation will almost assuredly make the problem worse, giving people a bad taste in their mouth for government prescriptions, while at the same time providing the Right with a political policy club they can use to beat “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” drum.
More than anything, people want effective government prescriptions. They also want politicians to explain them and stand by them when they’re touted as solutions to the nation’s serious problems. But in the end they must work. Healthcare, reduced to the toxicity of “Obamacare,” is a problem for Democrats because the good parts of it are packed in an awful piece of legislation that is indefensible. If Pres. Obama’s ego hadn’t gotten in his way he would have culled out the best parts, like expansion of insureds, parents keeping kids on their insurance, pre-existing illness coverage, to name just three, then added on to the legislation later. Giving people immediate things they felt in their own lives instead of a monstrous bill that sold out effectiveness to corporate interests.
If given the chance the Right will always hit the Left with “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” club, which ignores the real importance of government in times of crises. But when Pres. Obama doubles down on this age old talking point it not only emboldens the Right, but demoralizes Democrats, while invigorating the conservative elements of the Democrat Party leading to Republican Lite on the Left, which moves everything to the right even if the answers lie elsewhere.
William F. Buckley told Charlie Rose not long before his death that conservatism makes the case on what they’re against. Conservatives will rarely if ever offer solutions, because they don’t have any. The reason “cut entitlements” is their mantra is because it’s been the foundation of much of the Democratic Party’s success with the people.
If Pres. Obama was “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” there would be a massive infrastructure project gearing up throughout the country, with the cascading job creation that goes with it, while people today would be invested in healthcare, because they would already be seeing tangible benefits, instead of hearing about corporations getting exemptions, and deficit arguments against it while people are dying to see doctors, but cannot afford it or the coverage once promised through the legislation.
If Pres. Obama was “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” we’d be deep into a green energy revolution, instead of having a Democrat campaigning for the Senate take aim at the cap and trade bill with his rifle, then touch off a shot.
“The same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat” would have taken on the middle class tax cuts issue before the midterms, and the Debt Commission would never have been empowered. Instead, Pres. Obama would declare, and back it up, that Social Security is sacrosanct and not the issue and neither is entitlements. The way they are managed and implemented is the issue, especially with baby boomers coming of retirement age, but also because of life expectancy.
Pres. Obama’s problems don’t have anything to do with the fantasy rebranding ploy that he’s “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat.”
Obama led the Democrats to enact conservative policy solutions labeled as “liberal” legislation even though the effective aspects of progressivism was omitted in favor of cutting corners and deals that embolden corporate interests, big banks and Wall Street, which was a gift to the Right, while simultaneously giving them more reason to rail at “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat,” because what Obama and the Democrats were selling didn’t work.
The Right lives off the rhetoric Pres. Obama gave to the Times today. That it was said through a self-serving interview, because Obama’s going to be traveling abroad immediately after the midterms, timed undoubtedly to put him on the world stage and save him from having to respond to the impending carnage he helped cause, is chicken shit.
Photo of Pres. Obama is an official White House Photo by Pete Souza.