Saturday, September 3, 2011

Less White Flag, More Pit Bull

A regular reader of this blog, Nowhere Man, and I had a conversation about ScheduleGate way, way back, long ago when it was fresh in our memories a whole 48 hours ago. He made a cogent argument for the frustration we were feeling at the time, at the news of the White House switching the date of the anticipated job's speech. I asked Nowhere Man to email me in the form of a post and I'd include it in the blog.

I know this will stir up controversy, especially with my co-blogger Jennifer and others, who believe we should keep our sights focused on John Boehner and the obstructionist GOP instead of "blaming" President Obama, and rightly so. But in my opinion, the continuing pattern when it comes to the perception, the perception of the White House and Congressional Democrats backing down from a fight on a seemingly consistent basis can be a very damaging thing.

Whether the perception is true or not, we know that the combination of a right-wing echo chamber and a complicit mainstream media terrified at the thought of being labeled "liberal," can hurt. I've said it before: optics matter. All you have to do is think of John Kerry on a sailboard, Michael Dukakis wearing a helmet while riding in a tank, or the infamous Howard Dean yowl to know that optics matter. The general population likes the image of a strong leader. Whether they agree with him or not, they can at least say he's a person of convictions. But the constant backtrack is a turn off. Two words: Mitt Romney.

So yes, while he have to keep our eyes peeled and call out Republican hypocrisy at every turn, it would help tremendously if the President and the administration did as well.


Let's go back in time and try to remember when the brand new President of the Unites States tried to pass the stimulus to a Democratically controlled Congress to stave off a hemorrhaging economy. Republican leadership led by John Boehner and Eric Cantor wanted tax cuts in the bill. President Obama, trying to show he can work with the Republicans, allowed them to fill it with tax cuts. The largest tax cuts in US history, $282 billion worth over two years. The result: not a single Republican voted for the stimulus.

Right then and there the new President, barely a month into his term, should've sent the Republicans a profound message: DON'T TAKE ME FOR A SUCKER. He should have told then Speaker Nancy Pelosi to write a new bill minus the tax cuts the Republicans wanted. But he decided not to fight and instead left the Recovery Act as it was. By doing so, he made his first big mistake and sent a very different message to the Republicans: I CAN BE ROLLED.

What the President has needed from the very beginning is an advisor with a pit bull attitude, the way former President Clinton had James Carville to call out what phonies and hypocrites the Republicans were, and to say President Obama was trying to be conciliatory but got stabbed in the back by the opposition instead.

In the battle over the Bush tax cuts, Obama gave speeches to his base renewing his campaign pledge to let them expire. The Republicans held unemployment insurance hostage. He caved again and explained, incredibly telling and stupid in my opinion, that the hostage was going to be injured. The hostage was ultimately us. But it reaffirmed to the GOP he can be rolled, and all you have to do is grab a hostage.

It's too bad he didn't have a pit bull standing in front of the DC, inside the beltway, media elite cameras, ripping the Republicans and saying they didn't have a soul for using the middle class and unemployed like so much used toilet paper so the rich could keep getting richer, especially at such a difficult time for so many people during the holiday season, questioning, "What kind of country are we?" or "What kind of country have we become?"

At the press conference announcing the continuation of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that he was so against, he was asked by a reporter if he was worried that the Republicans would now use the debt ceiling as the next hostage. Obama explained despite prior evidence to the contrary, that he thought Boehner was an HONORABLE man! I'm sure there were plenty of eye rolls by the White House Press Corp when he said that.

In the debt ceiling debates he repeatedly vowed that there would be no budget cuts without new revenues. He again gave speeches to his base telling them to contact their representatives to support his debt ceiling plan, and that there would be no cuts without new revenues. There was so much email traffic from his supporters that several Congressional websites crashed. I actually thought, "Finally! He's drawing a line in the sand!" Well we all know that turned out to be just another rerun: spending cuts with no new revenue.

There was no pit bull going around saying the Republicans love their party more than their country and proving it by willing to let the country go bankrupt. There was no thought of explaining how the elderly, the disabled, our combat soldiers engaged in two wars, were all being held hostage yet again. And President Obama, refusing to challenge the Republicans and see if they had the balls to let the country go under, as usual raised the white flag.

And now ScheduleGate. When I first heard that they scheduled the speech on the same day as the Republican debate, I said, "Wow! He's starting the campaign with a bang! What a politically brilliant and bold in your face move declaring 'I'm ready to fight and no more Mr. Nice Guy!'" I was listening to liberal radio that afternoon when the news broke on Boehner's rejection and suggestion that the speech be moved to the following night, opposite the first game of the year for the NFL.

In response, the White House should have explained the timeline. They should have said Boehner had no problem with it until Rush Limbaugh had a problem with it. They should have explained that Boehner's excuses were faulty at best because they were using a parliamentary tactic to prevent the President from making any recess appointments, therefore they were technically in session. They should have release a statement like this:
"While Congress was enjoying its five week layoff, there were and still are millions of Americans who have been on permanent unpaid vacations struggling to get by. They've been waiting for this current session of Congress to start who, under the leadership of John Boehner, have yet to introduce a single jobs bill in the nine months since he's been Speaker. They continue to demonstrate their benign neglect of the unemployed by the unprecedented rejection of the President's request for a joint session of Congress to deliver his speech for a jobs plan. 
The President has decided instead to give the speech to those its aimed at - the unemployed. Therefore, President Obama will be addressing an auditorium full of unemployed Americans at the University of Maryland as scheduled, on September 7th. We are making our case directly to the American people while the Republican controlled House passes all the anti-Planned Parenthood bills it wants."
But who am I kidding? That would be a pit bull talking!

1 comment:

NowhereMan said...

I forgot to include Joe"you lie"Wilson as another example of the WH unbelievably tepid response over such an unprecedented,disrespectful remark from a redneck congressman from the South and Bohner's refusal to publicly excoriate him for not respecting the office.
A real pit bull would've questioned the whole party for not stepping forward and condemning the outburst.Mind you,this happened when the Democrats controlled the house so if anything,the repuplicans are now more emboldened to show even less respect as Bohner has clearly done now that they are in charge of the house.