Thursday, February 5, 2009

Obama Fights Back - Washington Post Editorial

This is something we're not used to seeing from Presidents. I can't remember if President Bush wrote anything, speeches, editorials, a book report on "My Pet Goat"?

President Barack Obama took his pen to paper and wrote an editorial regarding the economic struggle that we find ourselves in and the urgency of passing the Economic Recovery Bill currently in the Senate in the Washington Post today.

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis -- the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We've seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.
Now, some will say that this is beneath the President. Why is he writing editorials in the Washington Post? The answer is because he can. I don't know if it's my perception or if the media is following Obama with a fine tooth comb, but I don't ever recall any President having or maybe wanting this much media access to bring his message directly to the American people. There he was on all the nightly newscasts answering for the Daschle withdrawal. Have you ever seen anything like it? With this President the words, "The buck stops here," isn't just a funny little catchphrase. He actually means it.

Some will suggest that the editorial sounds like fearmongering. I vehemently disagree. The President's editorial isn't fearmongering if there is truth to it. There are no false qualifiers here, no deception, no lies to persuade. We are in deep, deep trouble and every day we wait it gets worse. There is no falsehood to that. There's a difference between laying out the dire circumstances for all to see and fearmonging to scare up votes by saying something like, "...if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States." See the difference?

I also disagree with those who think that President Obama didn't have to send this message. So far, this recovery bill has been based on the framing of the argument. The Republicans have framed the debate on this bill as "pork laden." Rush Limbaugh calls it "porkulus" in front of 14 million weekly listeners. (And he certainly know something about porkulus.) The GOP has capitalized and zeroed in on a fraction of one percent of the recovery bill for their political advantage and framed the entire bill it as a pork laden wish list. They public thinks it looks like pork because the Democrats are sitting back while the Republicans, with the blatant or inadvertent help of the media, are framing it as wasteful spending. And if the public gets that perception, then that's what they'll believe because the media is never wrong. Where is the rebuttal from Democratic leaders explaining why these measures are in the bill?

$200 million for Medicaid on contraception will save $60 billion in government medical costs in the future. Sounds like a good investment. $21 million for the National Mall will put arguably thousands to work to repair the crumbling foundations of our national monuments. But the GOP calls this "$21 million for grass." The list goes on and on, and instead of the Democratic leaders rebutting these ridiculous pork notions, they are either nervously wringing their hands in silence or aren't getting the air time to rebut. The only Congressman I saw defending contraception was Robert Wexler (D-FL), who explained it rationally and logically on Hardball with Chris Matthews. And when he was done, he still got a "I don't understand what you're talking about," from an obtuse Phil Gingrey, the same Congressman who's apologized to Rush Limbaugh for his brief moment of clarity.

Maybe the President did make one mistake. In the interest of bipartisanship, President Obama compromised too much; he backed off to a fault with initial GOP resistance and it was perceived as a validation of Republican complaints. But what happened? After he accommodated them, House Republicans rejected the bill anyway. And the more it went on, the more we saw the political endgame that they would have rejected it no matter what the President did just to send a message.

Well, now it's the President's turn to send a message. It's the Democratic leaders' turn to send a message and make the obstructionists decide that if they really want to fight this thing, they're going to have to filibuster for it. No pansy ass cloture votes. Make them filibuster.

The only mistake the President made regarding the Washington Post editorial was not going far enough. This was a statement that needed to be made on prime time television in front of a national audience.

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