Howard Dean appeared on Face the Nation today to discuss anger on the left, the tax deal, and why primarying Obama is a bad deal. Yes, there is anger, but it's still a bad deal for a number of reasons. History proves it and the polls don't support it.
From the transcript (PDF):
HOWARD DEAN (Former Presidential Candidate): I don’t think he’s going to face an opponent in the democratic primary. I think that would be bad thing for the country and I think it would be a bad thing for the Democratic Party. The history of people running against Presidents in their own party as the challenger, you loses and then the President is weakened and loses. Now the President has done some things that I think are terrific. This is not one of them. But I-- I think he will not get an opponent.
This is not to say that Dean endorses the tax cut idea. He doesn't.
BOB SCHIEFFER: What do you think is going to happen here, governor? Do you think in the end the House Democrats like Congressman Nadler will come around, just looking--
HOWARD DEAN: Well here’s the-- here’s the big problem with this, Bob. This is terrible for the country long term and it’s not just the things that Jerry was talking about. First of all we’re going to find out if the Republicans are serious about the deficits. This tax cut’s not paid for. And the biggest part of the deficit in-- as-- if you project out until 2018 is the Bush tax cuts. That is what causes sixty percent of the deficit. Second of all the two percent payroll tax sounds great but in fact they take it out of the Social Security Trust Fund. Now here we are complaining about the Social Security Trust Fund going broke and we take a hundred and twenty million dollars of rev- - a billion dollars of revenue out and use it for a-- a payroll tax mitigation. This is a short-term Washington fix. It does nothing about the biggest long term threat to America which is the deficit. I don’t hear Republicans or Democrats talking about the deficit. There is no pain in this agreement. This is the easy way out for everybody. Much as everybody is complaining and hooting and hollering, this is an inside the beltway fuss and somebody needs to do something about the long term problems in this country, it’s not in this bill.
Later in the transcript Dean discusses the political cost to the President as a result of his deal with the
The truth is I don’t think this is all that bad for the President politically because he-- he is going to be seen as acting presidential and bringing both sides together and all that stuff. The thing that bothers me about it is we have yet to deal with the biggest problem that is facing this country, which is the size of the deficit and nobody is doing anything about it.
Dean almost got to why this deal really does put Obama at a political advantage in 2012 when he addresses the deficit issues. There have been rising signals from the White House that this bandage (or punt, or Hail Mary pass or whatever you want to call it) on the tax cuts doesn't come without another price: A call for both sides to sit down and overhaul the tax code. Republicans have responded by promising cuts of an immediate $25 million by slashing Congressional staff budgets. Ooooh, a whole $25 million? Sheesh, $25 million doesn't even cover John Boehner's green fees, much less make a dent in the budget.
If you want symbolism, that $25 million is it, right there. The new Republicans in the House and Senate are hiring lobbyists as their chiefs of staff, so count on a fight over pork -- with the GOP taking the lead. Suddenly the party running on fiscal responsibility in 2010 will be held to that promise in 2011, and they'll surely break that promise right away, leading to disappointment and anger in the Tea Party ranks. Over the next two years, they and their corporate masters will be forced into the position of having to defend their porky ways, their penchant for deficit spending, and their empty rhetoric.
Will we capitalize on that? To me, a fight worth having is the one that hurts the other side, not our own side. We have shameless corporate hacks in charge of the budget and appropriations process now. They've promised to try and de-fund the health care bill, which will not be progress in any form if they succeed. They want to undermine Medicare and Medicaid while continuing outrageous corporate welfare to multinational corporations who currently pay no tax.
When viewed in that frame (and by the way, please read this George Lakoff column for more on how we've all failed to frame this debate properly), aiming our ammunition at the right wing seems like a more sensible thing than assuming the mantle of the minority and the aggrieved.