Thursday, July 14, 2011

Obama 2012: Just do it!

Watching President Obama's press conference, you got the feeling he wouldn't care if Congress put a bill on his desk ordering the immediate demolition of Capitol Hill, so long as it included a measure to increase the debt ceiling.

"Let's step up," he told a packed house of reporters. "Let's do it. I'm prepared to do it... Let's consider it... Let's go... Let's act now... Let's get this problem off the table... Let's deal with it... Now is the time for us to go ahead and take it on... Do it now... I'm ready to do it."

If nothing else, he's got a new slogan for his 2012 re-election campaign, assuming Phil Knight doesn't mind the trademark infringement.

As further evidence of the complete incompetence of the United States Congress, the president has once again been called in to play the moderator in a partisan battle over a routine budgetary matter that in the last 40 years hasn't been any more controversial than a declaration to rename the Inverness, Calif., post office.

Congress didn't balk when it voted to triple the national debt with 18 increases to the debt ceiling during Ronald Reagan's two terms. No Republican majority leaders stormed out of the room before Congress voted a half-dozen times to increase the debt ceiling during George H.W. Bush's one-term presidency. There were never any threats of defaulting on the nation's credit card when Congress voted seven more times to raise the debt ceiling and nearly double national debt during Junior's two terms in the White House.

But Obama isn't a Republican president, and Republicans today have no other choice in the matter. If you sow beets, you will not reap olives.

They thumped Democrats in the midterm elections by campaigning against big government, against government spending, and against the national debt. To break that promise would be to sever the support from one of the most vocal and active factions in politics today, the Tea Party. Reneging on their vows would carry the consequence of early retirement, as Tea Party organizations across the country have threatened to oust "Republicans in Name Only" (RINOs) in 2012 primaries if they fail to seriously tackle the debt. It would also carry the risk of making Republican members of Congress look like H.W. Bush after he uttered the now infamous campaign promise, "Read my lips: No new taxes."

On top of that, Republicans know that a poor economy (made worse by their efforts to enact massive federal spending cuts) is their only hope for a repeat performance in 2012.

Barack Obama Swoosh

What GOP leaders fail to realize is that their stall tactics and obstructionist strategies only make the president stronger. They've fought "big government" by demanding massive spending cuts as part of a deal to increase the debt ceiling, but they've vehemently opposed every option put on the table. Their House majority leader, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), walked out on negotiations because Democrats wouldn't agree to 100 percent of his demands. And then they had to call in the president to help heal the wounds and iron out a deal.

Just like in April when Obama took over the 2011 budget negotiations, he's re-framing the debate, and it doesn't look good for Republicans.

He agreed to $2 trillion in spending cuts. Republicans said no. He then offered more than $3 trillion in spending cuts. Republicans again said no. As the icing on the cake, he proposed significant reforms to Social Security and Medicare, the Democratic Party's sacred cows, and the GOP still said no.

He's taken to the podium twice in as many weeks to lay out the general scope of the negotiations, to ask for some modicum of urgency and fairness in the talks, and to send the message to the American public, to the electorate, that he's willing to go to any length to avoid an economically catastrophic default. The only caveat: reciprocity.

"I'm prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done," Obama said, "and I expect the other side should be willing to do the same thing – if they mean what they say, that this is important."

"Now is the time to do it,” he said in a warning to Congress about the added pressure of continuing this debate any further into the 2012 campaign season. "It's not going to get easier. It's going to get harder. So we might as well do it now – pull off the Band-Aid; eat our peas."

Despite ample evidence to the contrary, Obama is showing the American people that there actually is an adult in this fight, and that that adult doesn't care about the political differences. He wants results.

"[I]f each side takes a maximalist position, if each side wants 100 percent of what its ideological predispositions are," he said, "then we can't get anything done."

He's direct and pragmatic where other politicians are demagogic. He's confident about the potential for compromise where other politicians are frantically, stubbornly obstinate. And he's reassuring where other politicians are apocalyptic.

The more time he gets in front of a room full of reporters and cameras, the more he gets to demonstrate to the American public that sanity has a seat at the head of the table in the daily operations of an otherwise insanely politicized federal government.

"[I]s the package that we're talking about exactly what I would want? No. I might want more revenues and fewer cuts to programs that benefit middle-class families that are trying to send their kids to college, or benefit all of us because we're investing more in medical research," he said. "I make no claims that somehow the position that Speaker [John] Boehner and I discussed reflects 100 percent of what I want. But that's the point. My point is, is that I'm willing to move in their direction in order to get something done. And that's what compromise entails. We have a system of government in which everybody has got to give a little bit."

It's the reason political analyst Mark Halperin described the president not as an "ignoramus" or an "economic bonehead," but as a "dick" following his last debt ceiling press conference.

Obama wasn't wrong. He wasn't misinformed about the necessity of increasing the debt limit. Rather, Halperin knew no other way to vent the frustration of seeing a Democratic president take the upper hand in a debate that Republicans not only started but started with the self-assurance that its outcome would wreak havoc on Obama's approval rating and credibility. 

Understandably, it must be quite embarrassing to pick a fight only to bow out every time the opponent steps into the ring. 

It was Republicans, remember, who spent a year campaigning against excessive government spending.

It was Republicans who demanded "historic" federal budget cuts.

And it's Republicans who are holding the debt ceiling hostage in order to secure even more "historic" cuts.

The debt wasn't only contributing to the economic "uncertainty" that Republicans claimed was hampering job growth. It was also going to destroy the American Dream for all future generations.

Then the president said, "Okay, let's do it... I'm prepared to do it... Let's go," and the GOP panicked.

The big-government loving socialist suddenly endorsed one of the most un-socialist, small-government policy positions ever.

Obama 2012: Just Do It! 

(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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