Welcome to 1948
Here we go again, and here we'll remain, I suppose, until President Obama's friendly detractors and nasty allies see the White House's white-flag strategy unfurled in radiant, fighting colors -- the here, this morning, once again surging in Frank Rich's always excellent writing and momentarily mistaken analysis. (OK, so I'm beginning to feel like a besieged evangelist; Lord, I sure hope I'm right).
Observes Rich, Obama is suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, and "The captors will win this [tax-cut] battle ... because Obama has seemingly surrendered his once-considerable abilities to act, decide or think."
A peculiar criticism, I'd say, since what could be more decisive than for Obama to rebuff his base in the midst of so much Democratic-activist discouragement and disappointment? It seems to me the easiest, partisan act for Obama to execute would be to relentlessly hammer Senate Republicans on their fiscal recklessness and dig in his heels with a veto threat.
But then what? What then when Senate Democrats inevitably capitulate to the minority-as-majority? There Obama would stand, all alone, with only two dreadful options: Admit defeat and look weaker than ever, or single-handedly outlaw tax cuts for millions of middle-class Americans and do horrifying harm to an already crippled economy. Not a pretty vision.
"[T]he real problem," continues Rich, "is that he’s so indistinct no one across the entire political spectrum knows who he is. A chief executive who repeatedly presents himself as a conciliator, forever searching for the 'good side' of all adversaries and convening summits, in the end comes across as weightless, if not AWOL."
I find that a curiously blended criticism, although its inherent progressivist projection is rather graphic. It's true that ideological progressives find Obama "indistinct," and to some calculated degree he is. But what they simultaneously neglect is that it was his deliberate indistinctiveness that got him elected in the first place: Independent voters love ambiguity and rhetorical mush, with which their own mushiness can identify.
But there are limits, even for independents, who will determine 2012's outcome. Those limits, however, cannot have been reached for independent voters within only a few weeks of the "game-changing" midterms and before the new, half-Republican Congress is even sworn in. Obama knows this, in both his belly and brain, and with a monumental patience unnatural to pugilistic activists he's biding his time to strike. "In the end [he] comes across as weightless," says Rich, somehow forgetting that this is not the end.
I'll concede one point to Rich, though. President Obama is perhaps too stoically cerebral for today's hyperpolarized, bloodbath politics of adolescent tribalism and elementary regurgitation. He seems to think that speaking his mind and making his position known once, twice, three times or twenty is sufficient for the body politic's comprehension; to wit, his by-now countless and unmistakable declarations on the Bush-era tax cuts, only to hear hyperpartisans such as Frank Rich write that "No one expects Obama to imitate [New Jersey Gov.] Christie’s in-your-face, bull-in-the-china-shop shtick. But they have waited in vain for him to stand firm on what matters to him and to the country."
Obama of course did stand firm on upper-end tax cuts throughout the 2008 campaign and continued standing in like manner as president -- until, that is, it became all too obvious that success in Congress was not an option.
The timing of Obama's D-Day offensive against the recalcitrant GOP remains precarious. My initial thoughts were, for reasons explained, that he'd dismiss the tax-cut issue as his artillery-opening opportunity, but use it to assault Republicans when they then denied him a vote on New Start. Some reasonably lengthy demonstration of presidential good faith is incumbent on Obama in order to persuade independents that he's the reasonable One; and, it seems to me, on tax cuts Republicans are playing right into his carressing hand.
Yet, as I noted earlier, such timing might be aggressively premature. Obama might yet delay his assault well into 2011, and, my guess, initially over some relatively insignificant piece of legislation (for what else will we see next year?) -- a political skirmish on which he can build, more and more thunderously, more and more Trumanesquely, heading into 2012.
I found this via a post at The Daily Dish.
The reason for both posts is to complain about Frank Rich's recent column in the NY Times. Mr Rich is more than capable of defending himself so I'll let that go. What's really interesting about the post in the Daily Dish and the one quoted above is that they demonstrate how strongly some folks cling to the idea that Obama's actions are all part of a cunning plan that will be revealed in fullness of time.
The following two sentences from "Welcome to 1984" really demonstrate this point:
"I'll concede one point to Rich, though. President Obama is perhaps too stoically cerebral for today's hyperpolarized, bloodbath politics of adolescent tribalism and elementary regurgitation."
"The timing of Obama's D-Day offensive against the recalcitrant GOP remains precarious."
Obviously we, the lesser people, just can't understand that Obama's not a COWARD after all that caves before the fight begins but rather a master politician whose skills are such that that "we", the idiots that form the Democratic Party base, just can't understand or appreciate them. What a bunch of crap! How either sentence quoted above could have been written with a straight face is beyond me - obviously their author needs an enema.