In Day Two of Republicans Hold America Hostage, we examine President Obama’s response to kidnapper Mitch McConnell’s pledge to continue doing nothing on anything until wealthy Americans are assured of getting an average of $100,000 in tax cuts.
Before we begin, let’s remember two things.
The bipartisan Slurpeefest two days ago was originally scheduled for November 18. Obama, ever the gracious one, invited Republicans over to his place to sort of reset their relationship, after Republicans kicked some serious booty via the midterms. It was supposed to be a working session followed by “dinner in the Obama’s private residence.”
Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, soon let it be known that they were just “too busy” to meet on November 18. Now, this was widely seen as disrespectful, as it is common practice for legislators to rearrange their schedule, when the President of the United States invites them in for discussions.
But these aren’t ordinary times and these aren’t ordinary Republicans. Disrespecting President Obama has become something of an art form among Tea Party-drunk politicians, who believe they can do anything they want to Mr. Obama with impunity.
And, of course, they get that idea because it happens to be true.
The President accepted the Republicans excuse that they just didn’t have time and quickly reset the meeting for November 30. There, that’ll show ’em!
So, what was Mitch McConnell doing on November 18, instead of meeting with—did I mention this?—the President of the Bleeping United States? I’ll let Amanda Terkel tell you:
WASHINGTON — On the day that Republican leaders were supposed to have a bipartisan meeting and an intimate dinner with President Obama, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spent several hours schmoozing with the conservative Federalist Society — including attending their annual dinner.
The “annual dinner” featured a speech by conservative activist Justice Antonin Scalia, who, along with his conservative colleagues, has done the Republican Party’s dirty work by completely turning the country over to the wealthy, via the incarnation of corporations.
Okay. So, all that was clearly a POTUS-slap.
What did our above-the-fray POTUS do?
Nothing. He’s above the fray.
On we go to November 30. After the meeting with Republicans, here’s what Obama said:
…the truth is there’s always going to be a political incentive against working together, particularly in the current hyperpartisan climate. There are always those who argue that the best strategy is simply to try to defeat your opposition instead of working with them…
But I think there was recognition today that that’s a game that we can’t afford. Not in these times. And in a private meeting that I had without staff — without betraying any confidences — I was pleased to see several of my friends in the room say, let’s try not to duplicate that. Let’s not try to work the Washington spin cycle to suggest that somehow the other side is not being cooperative. I think that there was a sincere effort on the part of everybody involved to actually commit to work together to try to deal with these problems.
The Obama who spoke these words is a genuinely nice person. He truly believes this stuff. He wants it to be true. He is not an “eye for an eye” guy. Machiavelli is not on his bookshelf. He has risen above the shouts from Republicans of “You lie!” and “Obama is a socialist!” and “Obama is a Marxist-Kenyan anti-colonialist” and other such indignities.
He has turned the other cheek, given up his cloak and his tunic, gone the extra mile.
Yet, the next morning after the November 30 bipartisan, “commit to work together” meeting—yesterday—Mitch McConnell announced that he has herded all 42 Republicans in the Senate and they will, indeed, hold that body hostage—and by extension America—unless the Democrats pay their ransom: tax cuts for the rich.
Now, most ordinary folks would see this stratagem as the grossest of offenses, both personal and institutional. Most ordinary folks would, to put it delicately, get pissed.
But Mr. Obama is not ordinary folk. When asked if “what McConnell did” broke the “spirit” of the November 30 meeting, here is what the President said:
…there’s going to be some lingering politics that have to work themselves out in all the caucuses, Democrat and Republican. But at the end of the day, I think that people of good will can come together and recognize that given where the economy is at right now, given the struggles that a lot of families are still going through right now, that we’re going to be able to solve this problem. And I think we got off to a good start yesterday. There are going to be ups and downs to this process, but I’m confident that we’re going to be able to get it done. All right?
Well, no. It’s not all right.
Essentially, Mr. Obama equated what Republicans are doing in their caucuses with what Democrats are doing in theirs, calling it all “lingering politics.” That response, while typical of the Kumbaya Obama we have all, unfortunately, grown used to, is unacceptable.
Instead of taking a shot at Republicans for playing him as a fool, the President blames it all on politics on both sides.
It’s no wonder that Democrats in Congress, with a few notable exceptions, are afraid to stand up and shout down Republican bullies. They’re not afraid of the Republicans as much as they are afraid that Obama will not have their backs in the fight, nevermind fight them himself.
In an effort to appease the “independent voters,” who have lately abandoned him because of the sluggish economy, Mr. Obama ignores the obvious fact that Republicans are playing him for a sucker. Who thinks that Democrats, with their large majorities in Congress and with the White House, are in charge? Nobody.
And most of the blame for that reality lies with President Obama.
All of this is not easy to write, since there hasn’t been a bigger Obama supporter in the entire country than yours truly. I admire his calm demeanor and rational approach, which works well for confronting the problems of actual governance. But it’s a terrible approach to politics. It’s a liability. When your political enemies are lobbing grenades in your direction, you don’t invite them over to roast marshmallows.
And you certainly don’t tell the country that “both sides” are lobbing grenades, when one side is tossing them on your behalf and on behalf of working and middle class Americans.
The Democratic Party needs a strong leader in these times of trouble, both for the sake of the country and for the sake of the party. Since the trouncing on November 2—and some say long before—Obama has demonstrated that he is not the leader we all thought he could and would be. Harry Truman he is not.
But here’s hoping against audacious hope that there is still time for him to come to his senses, time for him to get out of his foxhole and take back the ground he has surrendered to Republicans.
More important, there is still time for him to free the unemployed and the middle class, who are being held hostage by Republicans, without paying the ransom of tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.