Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Well, not everyone agrees that Mr. Obama "caved."  And nothing can get sorted out when everyone is shouting, pointing fingers and spitting at each other.  It is curious how many Democrats are spittle-flecking at the president for what they perceive as a betrayal while running away from him when he needs our support the most.  Nice work.   It appears the Democrats are more interested in satisfying their desire to get back at the Republicans for the previous 8 years than in trying to work out something that both sides can agree on.  IMHO President Obama understands that a continuously divided country cannot stand.  This is what the constant warring and battling to "get even" mentality has brought us.  Nothing. Nothing.

Nothing will ever be accomplished and President Obama gets that.

Last night a family member saw the film Invictus. 

There's a similar parallel between what happened in that story at that time in South Africa's history and what is happening to us in this country :

While Mandela attempts to tackle the country's largest problems—crime and unemployment, among many others—he attends a game of the Springboks, the country's rugby union team. Mandela recognizes that the blacks in the stadium cheer against their home squad, as the Springboks (their history, players, and even their colours) represent prejudice and apartheid in their minds, and remarks that he used to do the same thing on Robben Island. Knowing that South Africa is set to host the 1995 Rugby World Cup in one year's time, Mandela convinces a meeting of the newly-black-dominated South African Sports Committee not to change the Springboks' name and colours. He then arranges a meeting with the captain of the Springboks rugby team, Fran├žois Pienaar (Matt Damon). Though Mandela does not verbalize his true meaning during their meeting, Pienaar understands the message below the surface: if the Springboks can gain the support of non-white South Africans and succeed in the upcoming Rugby World Cup, the country will be unified and inspired to exceed its expectations."

Last night the very liberal Lawrence O'Donnell, who actually has legislative experience, advocated for President Obama's position and understands why he did what he did.

View it here.

Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Dish also sees that Mr. Obama is a strategist and has looked at the long game.

Obama: President; McConnell: Sucker
07 Dec 2010 10:16 pm

"It's been fascinating to watch the left's emotional roller-coaster these past few weeks. It's also been fascinating to watch Obama out-run them, and to observe their responses to the final deal in the last 24 hours. Krugman has gone from "Let's Not Make A Deal" to "better than what I expected." The response from the far-right has also been illuminating. Drudge rushed to declare Obama's payroll tax cut as a Republican idea. Hinderaker below insists "Obama has admitted that the Republicans were right all along." Notice something about all of this? They all now realize that Obama has been a little shrewder than they took him to be.

Substantively, the Dish is in some ways horrified that the result of the last election - which was dominated by the view that deficits need to be controlled and that new stimulus is evil - turned out to be ... a new bipartisan stimulus package financed by borrowing! At the same time, it's clear that this also clears the stage for a two-year fight over long-term fiscal balance, distinct from the short-term need to recover from recession. And that is the best context for serious reform. If we reform the tax code, and cut entitlements and defense, we should do so for structural, long-term reasons, not in response to a particular crisis. That's the chance we now have, if Obama leads the way (as I suspect he will).

And notice that Obama has secured - with Republican backing - a big new stimulus that will almost certainly goose growth and lower unemployment as he moves toward re-election. If growth accelerates, none of the current political jockeying and Halperin-style hyper-ventilation will matter. Obama will benefit - thanks, in part, to Republican dogma. So here's something the liberal base can chew on if they need some grist: how cool is it that Mitch McConnell just made Barack Obama's re-election more likely? Bet you didn't see that one coming, did you?

The mix of policies is also shrewd from a strategic point of view."

Clive Crook of The Atlantic wrote another reasoned analysis:

Obama Did the Right Thing

Dec 7 2010, 11:33 AM ET

"I don't suppose I should be surprised by the operatic dismay of liberal Democrats at the agreement Obama has reached with congressional Republicans. But is it really good politics for the party to keep telling the electorate that raising taxes on the rich is the one thing, in the end, it stands for? That nothing else comes close in the party's list of priorities? Because this is the message that comes across.

Obama was right to strike this agreement. The concession on taxes is minimal, because a much larger tax reform is coming soon, one way or another, and that will be the time to press for an appropriately progressive formula for raising significantly more revenue. Meanwhile extending unemployment benefits and delivering some additional short-term stimulus through the payroll tax cut are matters that really cannot wait.

He did the right thing. But he did it in an unconvincing way. It has been obvious for weeks if not months that this was the kind of deal that would eventually be struck. He could have shaped it more to his liking (and mine) if he had taken the initiative in moving the $250,000 threshold for higher income taxes to $1m early on, and then gone out and sold it. (The party line about "millionaires and billionaires" simply does not square with that $250,000: the policy and the marketing were completely out of sync.) He let the debate drag on too long. He refused to get in front of it. He let the outcome be forced upon him. And in his televised statement--although what he said all made sense, to me at least--his tone was timid and defensive, I thought. He looked weary.

To his credit, he defended his position on principle: "I'm not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare in Washington." Good. He went further than that, in fact, positioning himself between the warring factions, rather than as the head of one of them, saying in effect that he was above all that--a very provoking message to fellow Democrats. That was brave--but is he ready for this fight, and willing to follow through? His tone did not say courage and conviction, but hesitation and retreat. His own party is taking up the theme more enthusiastically than ever: Obama is weak; Obama is a liability. Incredible, when you consider what he got done in his first two years."

The New York Times:

"...the Democrats should vote for this deal, because it is the only one they are going to get. Mr. Obama made that case — strongly — on Tuesday, summoning an eloquence that is often elusive, as it was on Monday when he first announced the deal. Without this bargain, income taxes on the middle class would rise. Unemployment insurance for millions of Americans would expire. And many other important tax breaks for low- and middle-income workers — including a 2 percent payroll tax cut and college tuition credits — would not be possible.

If angry Democrats blow up the deal, they will be left vainly groping for something better in a new Congress where they will have far less influence than they have now. The middle class and the unemployed would be seriously hurt.

The president, and particularly Congressional Democrats, might not be in this bind if they had fought harder against the high-end tax cuts before the midterm elections. But that moment has passed. The real responsibility for what’s wrong with the tax deal lies with Republicans. They coldly insisted on the high-end tax cuts at all costs, no matter the pain they might inflict further down the income ladder or what staggering cost they might impose in years to come.

President Obama was right to use the metaphor of hostage-taking to describe the Republicans’ tactics. Using the parliamentary rules of the Senate, 42 Republican senators threatened to raise middle-class taxes if Democrats let tax cuts expire on the richest 2 percent of Americans. That left the White House and the Democrats little room to maneuver. “I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed,” Mr. Obama said at his news conference on Tuesday. "

New York Times:

For Obama, Tax Deal Is a Back-Door Stimulus Plan

Published: December 7, 2010

"Congressional Democrats have reacted with a mix of wariness and anger, and some said Mr. Obama should have put up a fight on the high-end tax cuts. Yet once the Democrats bungled this issue — failing to deal with it before the midterm elections — their choices were extremely limited. If they stood firm on the high-end tax cuts and Republicans stood firm as well, all of the Bush tax cuts, not just those on income above $250,000, would have expired Dec. 31. The economy would surely have suffered as a result, and a bad economy is rarely good for the party that holds the White House.

Tellingly, economists and Democratic policy experts were largely pleased with the deal. Forecasting firms on Tuesday upgraded their estimates for growth and job gains over the next two years. Economists at Goldman Sachs, who have been more negative and more accurate than most Wall Street forecasters lately, called the deal “significantly more positive” than they had anticipated.

And left-leaning policy experts said the package did more to create jobs than they had thought possible after the Republicans’ midterm election victories. Robert Greenstein, Lawrence Mishel and John Podesta — who run prominent Washington research groups that range from liberal to staunchly liberal — all offered praise for the package. Of its estimated $900 billion-plus cost over two years, roughly $120 billion covers the high-end tax cuts and the estate tax cut, $450 billion covers Mr. Obama’s wish list and $360 billion covers the tax cut extensions both parties favored.

“People are kind of venting their disappointment and acting as if the administration did a terrible job in the negotiations,” said Mr. Greenstein, who runs the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “But it didn’t. The mistake the administration made — and it was a serious one — was that it should have dealt with this well before the election.”


libhom said...

For Obama's support for tax cuts for the rich show's that he is as corrupt as the GOP. Will someone please run a primary challenge against Obama! The last thing this country needs is a fourth Bush term. This third Bush term has been awful enough.

Sue said...

after all this great research and truthfinding on what's really behind the decision and the breakdown of where the cuts are really going, libhom needs to reread this great post. I am siding with my president and I wish all democrats and independents would too.

Great job Shaw!

Sue said...

I linked this on my blog, it's an eye opener Shaw. It should teach me not to be so-critical-so-fast...

K. said...

Thanks for this post. I have been following this closely, and I have yet to see a single "angry Democrat" propose a plausible roadmap that would have led to an ideal outcome. I hope to God that we have not gotten so ideologically rigid that repealing the tax cuts is more important than extending unemployment insurance.

Bernie Sanders says he'll filibuster the bill. If he doesn't, does that make him a sell-out and a liar?

Sherrod Brown says Obama should played chicken. The Republicans -- and this is a grown man and U.S. Senator talking -- would have realized that they were on the "wrong side of history" and caved. Since when did being on the wrong side of history motivate a reactionary to do the right thing?

There's no sell-out or cave-in here -- just the kind of deal that politicians have been making since the days of the Roman senate. We're suddenly getting our shorts in a knot over something that's been going on since Cicero was in diapers?

dmarks said...

Lib: In this, Obama ended up supporting keeping existing tax cuts for all Americans, only a few of whom are rich. Your first sentence comes across as intentionally misleading.

I'm siding with the President here... and actually for some of the reasons Shaw has listed as well.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Citizen K,

IMHO, you hit it exactly.

Are we citizens so history challenged that we don't understand what Obama did?

I don't understand the Democrats who are angry at Obama for not playing chicken with working people's and unemployed people's lives.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Goodness, dmarks,

we agree on something?

Charlene said...

The Congress & Senate Democrats need to not vote for this. The result is the cuts expire Dec. 31. The Democrats can get the extention of unemployment done without the GOP.

Stand together and get it done.

The Dream act and the repeal of DADT can just wait for 2 more years. A Federal court will negate DADT before that and the military will put the orders into effect.

Let the GOP get up and debate the tax cuts in 2011. They will have the power in Congress and the Senate Dems will filibuster and it won't pass the Senate.

Rich people will just have to suffer through without the $100K per million they will have to pay. That will help the economy and we won't have to borrow $1 trillion to make up for what is not collected. The rest of us who are working will have to figure out how to do without the extra $3000 we have to pay.

Tea drinkers thoght they fixed something by voting for the GOP. They did nothing. The long term guys are now in charge of the important committees and there will not be any positive change in business as usual. I want the GOP to feel the full force of an angry America.

dmarks said...

"The Congress & Senate Democrats need to not vote for this."

Yeah, why not kick the economy in the teeth with a tax hike.

Nameless Cynic said...

Thank you, Shaw. I don't like many parts of the president's "compromise" (which will be seen - is being seen - by far too many as capitulation). But I understand it. And you put together most of the reasons why.

Now, if only some of the new Republican congresscritters can join in the fight toward reunification...

K. said...

I feel the same way. But sometimes you have to look at the board the way it is and make the best play you can under the circumstances. This was one of those times.

When I hear politicians like Diane Feinstein and Mary Landrieu -- who voted for the original tax cuts -- be critical of this, I want to ask them where they were when it counted. I don't have much doubt that Landrieu in particular was relieved not to take this up last fall.

K. said...

O'Donnell ran rings around those guys.

Adam Green is what is wrong with the left. He (seems to) actually believe that how a given issue polls affects Congressional votes. What really matters is how much people care about it and how much they are willing reflect that in their vote.

And does he really think that running a few ads against Boner (won by 36%) and Cant (won by 25%) is making life miserable for them? It takes a lot more than a progressive blog raising a few bucks from its readers to throw a scare into anyone, much less a Congressman in a safe seat.

Green conducted a nothing more than a grandstanding waste of time and money that would have been put to better use doing something that the left seems to have forgotten about. It's called organizing. But then doing that would take precious time that could be spent appearing on msnbc.

Shaw Kenawe said...

There's a lot of legitimaate criticism that can be leveled at the Democrats and President Obama.

This should have been addressed BEFORE the Nov. elections, but Congress decided to kick it down the road to after the elections--I think that was a mistake.

Could Mr. Obama have done some behind the scenes persuasion? I don't know. How much pressure can the executive branch place on the legislative branch?

It's possible that because Obama is not an old-time Washington pol he hasn't built up the long-term relationships that help in negotiations like this. However, he did win the presidency by a healthy percentage, and that could have given him the clout needed for persuasion.

I don't think we can reach back into even recent history to try to understand what could have happened, since I don't believe there are circumstances as dire as the ones that are facing the country now for comparison, and I don't remember any political party being as belligerent and destructive as the present GOP is.

libhom said...

Dmarks: The fact that someone from the extreme right such as you is supporting Obama's actions proves my points.

Obama really should be honest enough to change his party registration to GOP. He agrees with rightists like you on the issues. He should stop pretending he remotely resembles a Democrat.

K. said...

Absolutely right, libhorn. Look at the way Obama needed Republican support to pass the stimulus bill and the Affordable Care Act in the face of stiff opposition from his own party. And all those progressives marching in the streets screaming for single-payer and a public option, shouting down congressman at town hall meetings -- they should have been arrested.

K. said...

Shaw, our political system is broken, and the only vital external force for change has come from the right. (And it remains to be seen how external the teabaggers actually are.) Under these circumstances, the president could be a combination of Paul Wellstone and Mario Cuomo and not much would be different. We're kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.

It's a curious thing that we often want our presidents to be inside players when they take office but prefer them to be Washington outsiders when running for office. I'm guilty of that myself.

B.J. said...

Outstanding. Just outstanding. It’s amazing what you can do with intellect when you don’t let emotions get in the way. Thanks for laying it out in terms so clear they cannot be misunderstood. BJ

Frodo, watching Lisa's "Alaska" said...

For the record, the howler monkey known as Lisa actually attended five schools (two of which were junior colleges) before assembling a degree in communications. Frodo cheers the Wikileaks crowd for messing with her browser.

He visits here at the urging of those within the Fellowship, all of whom know that the Ring is a formidable weapon, and that the effort to its destruction saps our energy and our fortitude.
No one among us is as galled about the estate tax, and how the "Archer,DeLay,Armey" triumvirate got to write laws which directly benefitted themselves, as is the Hobbit. Frodo will not be at peace until each of these illegals spends nights in jail. However, his pique will not hinder his position that we stand together, with the peoples of Middle Earth, or we sink into the sanctimony of the loud, and the hollow. Suck it up folks, the real enemy is at hand.

dmarks said...

Lib: I am no kind of extremist. But feel free to lie.

Leslie Parsley said...

I'm sorry I'm late to the party but I've been out of the loop a bit. Your article and most of the comments are very insightful.

In a comment you said, "This should have been addressed BEFORE the Nov. elections, but Congress decided to kick it down the road to after the elections." This is true but Obama gets the blame.

I have become as fed up and turned off by the far left as I have been with the extreme right. Neither side is addressing the issues with any semblance of knowledge or reality. To say that Obama is corrupt is hysterical nonsense, especially coming from the left - childish and stupid imho.

Keep up the good work.

K. said...

tnlib knows how I feel about the left, which has become almost completely counterproductive.

Obama is headed toward Clintonesque triangulation because that's where he'll see the greatest level of popular support. This will cause apoplexy on the left, but, why would he or any other politician embrace the source of attacks? The left has gone through a two-year process of cutting of its nose to spite its face, and it shouldn't be surprised that few people want to look at it.

dmarks said...

"I have become as fed up and turned off by the far left as I have been with the extreme right."

And Sarah Palin is in lockstep with the Dem. congressional leaders and Bernie Sanders. But hey, they get to ignore realities as long as they get to make speeches to fire up their "ideology first, sense optional" hardcore followers.