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Not Breaking: Obama Misjudges Republican Willingness To Negotiate

In the sordid mess leading up to this week’s sequester, the NY Times editorial board diagnoses part of the problem:

The White House strategy on the sequester was built around a familiar miscalculation about Republicans. It assumed that, in the end, they would be reasonable and negotiate a realistic alternative to indiscriminate cuts. Because the reductions hurt defense programs long held sacrosanct by Republicans, the White House thought it had leverage that would reduce the damage to the domestic programs favored by Democrats.

Obama chose excellent election staffs throughout his political career.

He did not choose competent political strategists.  He himself is not a competent political strategist.  His team spent 18 months on health insurance legislation, during which he gave away concession after concession without getting anything of value in return.  Why?  Because he wanted a Grand Bargain as part of his political legacy.  One result of this shortsightedness was the Republican wave election of 2010, when state legislatures and governorships flipped from Democratic to Republican control.  The Democratic base didn’t think Obama had done much for them for 2 years, so they didn’t show up to vote.  The biggest problem with this: your average Republican wasn’t elected; the far right-wing fringe of the Republican Party was: enter the Teabaggers to the US Congress, governorships, and state legislatures.

Obama’s team made multiple deals on financial items: the debt ceiling (Republicans don’t want to pay for the bills they charged up), the Bush tax cuts (expired after 1 extension), and the 2011 deal to initiate blind spending cuts because the Republican-led House of Representatives can’t execute their Constitutional duty to pass an annual budget on time.  Hence the leading NYT paragraph.

Time after time after time, the Teabagging Republicans have refused to negotiate or work with President Obama or Democrats.  How many times will it take before Democrats take the Teabaggers at their word: despite the trillions of debt run up by their party in the 2000s, they won’t allow Obama to run up any more debt, regardless of the cost to the US economy or its citizens.  Well, it will take at least one more time, apparently.

No more Grand Bargains, Mr. President.


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Obama & The 2011 Budget

Digby: (emphasis mine)

The government is not like a family figuring out how to cut back on expenses. (If it is Dad is a real deadbeat because he decided to give up half his income last December to some rich frat boys.) And this isn’t really about programs President Obama “cares about” or about how “tough” it is for him. President Obama will not have to personally worry about these things and neither will his children, so the idea that he “cares” is just a tiny bit abstract in this context. This is about actual human beings and their ability to survive now and build a decent future.The main problem with all this, of course, is that he willingly signed a tax cut extension for the wealthiest people on the planet just two months ago even as they are making money hand over fist as it is, so any talk about “shared sacrifice” rings just a little bit hollow now. If he wants to be honest about this and admit that he’s catering to spoiled plutocrats and Wall Street Demi-Gods because he truly believes that he needs to sacrifice ordinary Americans on the alter of their egos, that’s one thing. But blowing smoke about how this hurts him just as much as the college kid who has to drop out in a terrible labor market — but he’s willing to make the sacrifice and so should we — well, it is too cynically cheap for words.

I’ve been emphasizing the part in bold for months now.

Politicians want to pretend like they’re treating the federal budget like they would their family budget.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

It really comes down to something this simple: if you are looking at a huge family budget debt, would you demand less income from your boss while you continued to give away cash to your rich friends from an account your family members contributed to and you promised they could withdraw from in a few more years?

Hell no, you wouldn’t.  But that’s exactly the game the D.C. crowd is trying to play.

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Corporate Media Gunning for Obama – Part II

I’m sure I could track down a dozen of these examples per day.  I wrote a post yesterday detailing the washington post’s attempted smackdown of Obama’s AIG bonus handling that lacked any shred of evidence supporting their wild accusations.  Today, the washington post delivers another gem: Obama’s budget strategy under fire.  As usual, the corporate media barely scratches the surface of this subject, doing all of their readers an immense disservice.

The article uses one of the corporate media’s favorite methods of relaying information: he said, she said.  In this case, its the Cons accusing the Obama administration of being a Chicago tough-guy by considering putting his energy and health care policies in a bill that cannot be filibustered.  The post’s Lori Montgomery misidentifies how the Senate actually works by writing the method would allow Democrats to pass the bill with only 51 votes instead of the usual 60.  Apparently our school system has been failing to educate us longer than I thought.  There is no “usual 60” votes needed to pass a bill in the U.S. Senate.  It requires only 51 unless someone threatens to filibuster it.  There is a cloture vote to determine if consideration of the bill should continue or not – that’s the only vote that requires 60 or Senators.

Lori doesn’t share this vital information with her readers until later in her article.  Indeed, she wrecks her journalistic credibility by purposefully withholding the information for that long.  She does mention that Reagan, Clinton and the Boy King used the tactic to pass some of their own measures.  Interestingly, I don’t recall the post taking Bush to task for not being the uniter he promised to be on the 2000 campaign trail.  But they are all too willing to allow the Con talking point against Obama to pass by unchallenged – as if that were the news instead of the underlying procedural details.

Moreover, the acceptance of Con talking points completely ignores what the President said just yesterday.  If Republicans have solutions, they need to present them.  Standing on the sidelines and criticizing and obstructing everything isn’t what they’re there to do.  Lori doesn’t put these things into perspective.  The Cons are supposed to be there to work with Democrats to implement solutions.  But today’s Cons haven’t believed in true bipartisanship for years.  Their concept of bipartisanship is passing their policies without negotiation.  That’s why they’re in the severe minority they find themselves in: they’re a whining, regional, out-of-touch group of people.  Only a tiny fraction of the American public support their backwards policies.

Democrats like Sen. Lincoln and Sen. Baucus were abused when they were in the minority just a few short years ago.  Today, they’re all too willing to allow the Cons more influence than the American people want them to have.  What Democratic policies got through the Senate while Bush was in the White House and the Cons ran Congress, especially energy and health care policies?  None.  The fossil fuel industry took over our energy policy, resulting in record high oil and gas prices last year.  The for-profit health management and pharmaceutical industry took over our health policy, resulting in double-digit price increases year after year after year.  The American people do not want the fossil fuel or for-profit health industries in control of our energy or health care policies anymore.  Allowing the Cons to control even a small measure of the procedure is cowardly and pathetic.

As I wrote above, the Cons are not interested in finding a middle ground.  They haven’t been interested for as long as I can remember.  They want to continue their way of running things – that’s why they’re called conservatives.  There won’t be any progress if Democrats solicit Con input.  Our energy and health care policies are in desperate need of complete overhauls.  Senate Democrats are dragging their feet, being too willing to water down the necessary changes just so the corporate media won’t spread the name-calling the Cons rely on.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

What makes it worse is the corporate media’s handling of the news.  When groups opposed Bush’s strong-arm tactics, which would crush Obama’s any day (remember late night and weekend votes the Cons scheduled without notice, ensuring a lack of Democratic resistence – the post obviously doesn’t), the washington post treated them with derision.  MSNBC didn’t regularly front-page articles from media sources that had a legitimate problem with the Bush administration.  Journalistic standards indeed.