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Is Obama Becoming The President He Has To Be, Not The One He Wanted?

It's no secret that over the last few years the Democratic base has been fuming at President Obama's strategic tactics of governing. He had a vision of leading which was one of compromise and bipartisanship, the type of governance which might

It's no secret that over the last few years the Democratic base has been fuming at President Obama's strategic tactics of governing. He had a vision of leading which was one of compromise and bipartisanship, the type of governance which might have worked in the 50's, 60's, '70s or '80s, but certainly not after Clinton became President and the office was demeaned and defaced by conservative pundits, AM hate talk radio and the beltway media like never before. And if they held out hope that the way things worked would be different in DC after the many failures of Bush and Conservatism they should have received a clue how things were going to go after Fox created the tea party. That being said Ezra Klein writes: Why the White House changed course

The White House could have been hammering that message since the day the House Republican Conference passed Ryan’s budget. They didn’t. The truth is, they didn’t want to. The president doesn’t think of himself as that kind of Democrat. He believes that there are sensible cuts that can be made to both Medicare and Social Security. He would like to win by governing effectively, by cutting deals with the other party, by making Washington work. He doesn’t want to run a generic Democratic campaign hammering Republicans for being willing to cut Medicare even as they cut taxes on the rich.

And for the last few months, he gave what Sarah Palin might call “the hopey-changey thing” a shot. But it failed. The choice, it turned out, wasn’t between winning by making tough choices and hard compromises and winning by running as a populist. It was between losing because he was unable to get Washington to make tough choices and hard compromises and trying something else. So now the White House is trying something else.

Ronald Reagan, who was despised by the young conservatives for being a squish, He cut deals with Democrats to save Social Security and raised taxes numerous times which did not make them happy. However, the political landscape has changed so much so since the New Right began to sprout their corrosive roots after Reagan took office that President Obama's vision never had a chance to succeed. The new breed of hard core conservative activists, who were looked upon as the tea party of their day were composed of actors like Jack Abramoff (right wing street theater), Ralph Reed (religious right) Grover Norquist (defunding the left and strangling the federal government), Bill Kristol (neoconservatism) Edwin Meese and Clint Bolick (federalist Society) Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh (conservative thought transmitters through the media) Homer Ferguson (attacking public servants) just to name a few. It's taken the Conservative movement 50 years to develop into what we now see as the "tea party." They are as far right as a person can go without falling into the ocean and are as much a part of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (social conservatives) as they are Barry Goldwater. This bridging the gap of all the extreme elements of the right makes Grover Norquist proud these days because through all those decades of watering extremist seeds, Conservative finally rule the GOP.

I believe the constant criticisms from the base (bloggers, Dem Party members and activists), who have been hammering home that our social safety nets must be protected have helped sway the administration away from their original intentions. Though the tea party's actions have also finally sunk in.

Obama's speech yesterday was much more confrontational and drew real lines that define the differences between the two parties. As Greg Sargent noted, this new posture is one to get back his base, but also to win back the independents. His threat of a veto has been cited often today and maybe he'll use it.

I've been writing that it was a mistake for the president to jump into the deficit hysteria that the right-wing was fermenting because deficits only matter when a Democratic politician occupies the Oval Office. I also despised it because we are in a bad economy and as history has taught us, government spending is needed to dig us out of this hole, not cuts. Austerity only buries us deeper. I believe if not for our push, the president would have talked more about his desire of cutting a grand deal which would have included cuts to medicare than they were Monday. It still upsets me that they continue to discuss reforms because first, it's bad policy and second, it can be manipulated against him and the entire party in an election year.

The new theory goes something like this: The first-best outcome is still striking a grand bargain with the Republicans, and it’s more likely to happen if the Republicans worry that Democrats have found a clear, popular message that might win them the election. The better Obama looks in the polls, the more interested Republicans will become in a compromise that takes some of the Democrats’ most potent attacks off the table.

But the second-best outcome isn’t necessarily looking like the most reasonable guy in the room. It’s looking like the strongest leader in the room. That’s why Obama, somewhat unusually for him, attached a veto threat to his deficit plan: If the supercommittee sends him a package that cuts benefits for Medicare beneficiaries but leaves the rich untouched, he says he’ll kick the plan back to Congress. Rather than emphasizing his willingness to meet Boehner’s bottom lines, which was the communications strategy during the debt ceiling showdown, he’s emphasizing his unwillingness to bend on his bottom lines.

Even after all that's transpired, the president still would rather have his grand bargain passed. It's mind numbing and the idea that they hope him appearing to be stronger will help him accomplish this goal is ludicrous. And to the second-best point. He should have always looked like the strongest leader in the room. He's the PRESIDENT. Again, strategy matters. We all understand that each one of us live in our own bubbles. You have yours, I have mine and the White House has theirs, but it's certainly taken an exorbitant amount of abuse from the GOP for the administration to break out of their cocoon and come to the same conclusions the DFH bloggers drew a long time.
Digby writes a nice recap:

My first thought is that it appears the administration has finally decided that there's nothing to be gained with exclusively delivering post-partisan pablum. It certainly sounds as though he's thrown down the gauntlet. Unfortunately, the President appears to want to have two fights going into this election, one over job creation and one over whose plan to cut the deficit is better, which I think is a confusing waste of time. (Focus like a laser beam on jobs and tell the Republicans they'll have to go through you to get to the safety net and I think people would instinctively understand that he's on their side.) But that isn't this president's style and perhaps it wouldn't be believable if he did it. So, this is at least a change of tactics, more confrontational in tone, which is his best hope for reelection since it turns out people aren't really all that impressed that he's the most reasonable guy in the room if it appears that he gets punk'd every time.

Unfortunately, I think the decision to include Medicare cuts (even though they seem to be provider based and means tested) is a big mistake politically. The Democrats needed to run against Ryan, and it was clean and simple before, now it's muddled and incoherent. Those provider cuts, if they were absolutely necessary, could certainly have waited until after the election. (And opening up the can of worms of military retirement benefits is daft. I don't know why anyone would dream of doing such a thing in an election year.)But the president is in a tough position having bought into austerity a long time ago and now it's hung around his neck, impeding his available solutions. Still, he shouldn't have touched one of the best arguments the Democrats have. I'm fairly surprised they did it.

Threatening a veto is good stuff. He should do more of it. But he frames it as a "shared sacrifice" so that people still believe it's right to trade essential middle class benefits for millionaire chump change. I hate that formulation and I think it's a mistake to perpetuate it. However, just making any threat is a good thing -- sounds like he's drawing lines in the sand and considering the political dynamics in the congress I think it makes it less likely that any of these cuts will actually happen.

I do hope as Digby does that cuts will not happen. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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