Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Still on this same subject (because it's so maddening... and so important), I saw that former LJDemocrats moderator, and well-meaning centrist, Robert Peate wrote today in his journal the following query-
There are those who faulted Bill Clinton (called him "the last good Republican president", etc.) for what they called his "triangulation". By this term they seemed to mean he looked at the extremes of Society and chose a path right down the middle, in an effort to win the most support. Naturally, this was viewed as a political decision that lacked principle, and was considered contemptible. "Triangulation" itself became an insult.

And now we have Barack Obama, whom I think is already doing a good job. But he is being praised for his "bipartisan" approach to everything. He says himself that he wishes to abandon "old politics" (I'm not sure what that means) in favor of "working together to get things done". What's the difference, and why is it that (if there is no difference) it is acceptable for Barack Obama to compromise but not Bill Clinton?

It's a completely fair question. And while President Obama is being widely praised-- and justifiably so, in my opinion-- for his progressive and immediate actions on government transparency and detainee policies and science policies and auto emissions, etc, there still remains a quiet concern among his supporters that his desire to be please everyone shows that he hasn't learned from the mistakes of the last Democratic president.

I wrote in response-
You are correct... there is no difference between the compromises Clinton made and those Obama seems inclined to make at this early point.

And, for those like me, there will be no difference in our anger towards Obama over such a betrayal (particularly because of how strongly I supported him from so early on). What Clinton compromised away were not small things... it was a stronger progressive agenda (his caving on trade policy, financial regulations, gay rights, etc etc). And what did he get in return for all that? Years of partisan attacks and conspiracy theories and ultimately an impeachment trial. It was like Charlie Brown and the football, and obviously the GOP remains the Lucy in this metaphor.

Now we see Obama preparing to cave... oops, I mean 'compromise'... to the GOP left and right on his economic recovery plan, taking out many provisions of long-term benefit that progressives wanted (transit spending, family planning funding, etc) and putting in a lot of provisions of short-term benefit-- at best-- that the conservatives demanded (misguided tax cuts, etc). And what does he get in return for this one-sided compromise? A grassroots conservative movement actively rooting for his failure and a GOP leadership in Congress vocally determined to ensure said failure. Why? Because they fear Obama's success will doom the GOP electorally. God bless America!

Compromising with these people is a waste of time. Obama won (and by a bigger margin that any Democrat has in over 40 years), and he needs to start acting like it.

Bob Herbert writes in his NY Times column this morning that-
"The question that I would like answered is why anyone listens to this crowd anymore. G.O.P. policies have been an absolute backbreaker for the middle class. (Forget the poor. Nobody talks about them anymore, not even the Democrats.) The G.O.P. has successfully engineered a wholesale redistribution of wealth to those already at the top of the income ladder and then, in a remarkable display of chutzpah, dared anyone to talk about class warfare...

...When the G.O.P. talks, nobody should listen. Republicans have argued, with the collaboration of much of the media, that they could radically cut taxes while simultaneously balancing the federal budget, when, in fact, big income-tax cuts inevitably lead to big budget deficits. We listened to the G.O.P. and what do we have now? A trillion-dollar-plus deficit and an economy in shambles.

This is the party that preached fiscal discipline and then cut taxes in time of war. This is the party that still wants to put the torch to Social Security and Medicare. This is a party that, given a choice between Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, would choose Ronald Reagan in a heartbeat.

Why is anyone still listening?"

The problem? Obama is still listening. And he's reacting. He shouldn't be.

Will he be a great President compared to Bush? Unquestionably. But that's a low bar, and we need better. We need a strong progressive leader willing to fight the status quo, and not compromise away our needs because he wants some fake atmosphere of one-way 'bipartisanship'. The jury is still out on whether Obama is that leader.

So what should the President do? He should have the congressional leaders-- Pelosi, et al-- craft the bill exactly the way he wants it... put back in all the removed spending, put the focus back on infrastructure, with no add-ins meant to appeal to right-wing conservatives. Let every Republican in Congress vote against it if they wish; the bill will pass anyway due to simple majority math. Then let the voters see the stark difference between the two parties, judge whether the stimulus did what it was supposed to be, and make a decision accordingly. I'm not holding my breath, but I have to retain hope that, on some level, the President realizes he's being played here.

[UPDATE: Right on cue, Charlie Brown goes running for that football.]


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