Thursday, June 30, 2011

Kicking His Own Butt

I waited until today to comment on Obama’s speech because had I commented yesterday I fear I would have been intemperate. Well, even less temperate than I will be today. Democrats are cheering him for “attacking” Congress but a) he should have been doing so for more than a year already and b) this attack was done using childish metaphor and trivial examples.

If his children (whose ages he got wrong) can do their home work on time, he says, then Congress can pass a $multi-trillion budget affecting the largest economy in the world. As Lawrence O’Donnell rather cogently pointed out, his daughters might have more trouble getting their homework done on time if they had to persuade all of their classmates to do it in perfect agreement with them and on the same day.

He harped on corporate jets six times. News flash; the economy did not collapse in 2008 because corporate fat cats were flying around in private jets, and we aren’t going to fix the economy by taxing those jets. Oil companies aren’t the “quick fix” either. Republicans aren’t going to fix the economy by making poor people the enemy, and Democrats aren’t going to fix the economy by making rich people the enemy.

Congress has to remain in session Obama says, adding smugly “I've been here doing Afghanistan, and Bin Ladin and the Greek crisis.” He’s also been in Los Angeles for a fund raiser, and in New York for a fund raiser, and in Iowa campaigning for his own reelection in 2012. And he hasn’t been getting to those places by flying in commercial airlines after getting groped by TSA agents, either. He’s been flying in the world’s biggest private jet.

It's also pretty easy for him to be smug about staying in Washington when he's not facing possible defeat in a primary election challenge, which most members of Congress are.

But the bigger point is that he is fighting the Republicans on their own terms when he says that “we can strike a deal to raise the debt limit.”

There is no need for any deal; we could simply raise that debt limit as we have done in times past without this circus of making deals on budget cutting and revenue enhancement. Obama said a year ago that is what he wanted Congress to do, in fact. Republicans said no, and Obama bought into their terms for the argument, as he always does, and so now we are having this huge catfight that the Republicans want purely because the Republicans want it, without Obama even trying not to have it.

Republicans have convinced the American people and the media that the debt limit cannot be raised without cutting spending in a major way, but it is simply not true, and Obama is not even challenging the premise.

He doesn’t like the Republican tax cuts, but he wants Congress to extend the Obama payroll tax cut which does nothing for the millions who are unemployed, does nothing for the millions of elderly on fixed incomes, but assures that workers with median income will have an additional $17.31 in their weekly paychecks. That’s a little bit short of a house payment. In fact, if you include food and energy, it doesn’t even cover the cost imposed by inflation at the moment.

Moving on to other issues, he tossed off as “foolish” any suggestion that he was outside his authority in starting a war in Libya. Saying that it is “foolish” to question him is what kings do. He then says that questioning the Libya action strengthens Kadaffi because it leads him to believe that we are divided. Echoes of Hillary Clinton last week and her, “Whose side are you on?” The last time we heard that kind of rhetoric was from Bush & Co.

I’m actually beginning to miss George Bush. I certainly don’t miss anything that he accomplished, but at least he stood at the bully pulpit and used it as a bully pulpit. He didn’t wait to see which way the parade was forming so that he could get in front of it. He knew what he believed was needed and he stood up and demanded that Congress pass it, on his terms, with his conditions, and they did it.

Obama stands at the bully pulpit and sounds like the guy on the beach who gets sand kicked in his face, who then apologizes for being in the way of the sand kicker. The Republican Party has been walking all over him since the day he took office, and they are flat stomping him into the ground with this debt limit issue.

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