I'd like to perform a thought experiment here. Assume for the moment that Barack Obama is a Republican spy, a plant, that managed to work his way up to the most powerful position in the democratic party, and then had the opportunity to implement either implicitly or maintain by default the most cherished tenents of Republican Party governance, as the party is presently set, philosophically.
The President Is Missing
By PAUL KRUGMAN
What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?If he were a republican plant, a republican "Manchurian Candidate" as it were, would this formerly inspiration figure his supporters thought they elected be anything but a timid guy who seems to stand only for maintaining the status quo, or implementing the Republican agenda?
I realize that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there’s not much Mr. Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn’t even using that — or, rather, he’s using it to reinforce his enemies’ narrative.We would expect just this reaction from a Republican plant, masquarading as a Democrat.
His remarks after last week’s budget deal were a case in point.
Maybe that terrible deal, in which Republicans ended up getting more than their opening bid,Getting more than their opening bid - great bridge metaphor. ONLY a democratic president will be able to tear down the last vestiges of FDR's social net developed to provide protection to the weakest amongst us.
was the best he could achieve — although it looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions.This wreaks of keystone cop antics - like the scene in Blazing Saddles where Gene Wilder holds a gun to the sheriff's head and threatens to "kill the nigger" unless the town's folk let him escape. (Please Br'er Fox, don't throw me into that briar patch.)
And bear in mind that this was just the first of several chances for Republicans to hold the budget hostage and threaten a government shutdown; by caving in so completely on the first round, Mr. Obama set a baseline for even bigger concessions over the next few months.Setting a baseline for even bigger concessions over the next few months. Not even President Dick Cheney could accomplish this.
But let’s give the president the benefit of the doubt,Why in the world should we give the President the benefit of the doubt? He ought to be based on his actions, his deeds, not his words.
and suppose that $38 billion in spending cuts — and a much larger cut relative to his own budget proposals — was the best deal available. Even so, did Mr. Obama have to celebrate his defeat?WELL - a Republican operative sure as hell would have celebrated, n'est ce pas?
Did he have to praise Congress for enacting “the largest annual spending cut in our history,” as if shortsighted budget cuts in the face of high unemployment — cuts that will slow growth and increase unemployment — are actually a good idea?No, he didn't, but he did. Not for us to impute motive, but every action taken so far in this budget process has produced a philosophical victory for the Republicans. Are we wrong to presume ... ?
Among other things, the latest budget deal more than wipes out any positive economic effects of the big prize Mr. Obama supposedly won from last December’s deal, a temporary extension of his 2009 tax cuts for working Americans.Most interesting. Can't even take a so-called victory and keep it in the record books as a victory. Finds a way to lose the victory after it was posted. Most interesting.
And the price of that deal, let’s remember, was a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts,Tax cuts. Tax cuts. For the rich, the corporations, the rich, the corporations ... who would ever implement such a policy?
at an immediate cost of $363 billion, and a potential cost that’s much larger — because it’s now looking increasingly likely that those irresponsible tax cuts will be made permanent.
More broadly, Mr. Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussionPerhaps because he embraces the philosophy?
— a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps;Yes, because they are poor because they are lazy. The have brought their own poverty upon themselves.
the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole program);Not even President Dick Cheney in his wildest wet dreams could imagine dismantling Medicare. Only a democratic president could do such a thing. Stealing from us, in plain sight. Typical of white people syndrome - we hold you accountable only for the words you say, not for the deeds you do, nor the consequence of your actions.
and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice!
I’m not exaggerating. The House budget proposal that was unveiled last week — and was praised as “bold” and “serious” by all of Washington’s Very Serious PeopleWhich just ought to tell you pretty much everything you need to know.
— includes savage cuts in Medicaid and other programs that help the neediest, which would among other things deprive 34 million Americans of health insurance. It includes a plan to privatize and defund Medicare that would leave many if not most seniors unable to afford health care.If they really wanted to, they'd never get old.
And it includes a plan to sharply cut taxes on corporations and to bring the tax rate on high earners down to its lowest level since 1931.YEAH BABY!!
The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center puts the revenue loss from these tax cuts at $2.9 trillion over the next decade. House Republicans claim that the tax cuts can be made “revenue neutral” by “broadening the tax base” — that is, by closing loopholes and ending exemptions. But you’d need to close a lot of loopholes to close a $3 trillion gap; for example, even completely eliminating one of the biggest exemptions, the mortgage interest deduction, wouldn’t come close. And G.O.P. leaders have not, of course, called for anything that drastic. I haven’t seen them name any significant exemptions they would end.
You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target.OR, under one slightly different assumption, to see it as the President's own proposal.
But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval.
What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences.NO, Kruggers, only you are clinging to that difference. Oh, maybe his strategy is to get re-elected and THEN implement his "true agenda" in his second term. MAYBE!
And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise.
But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something,Barack Obama believes in being reelected. It has always been his primary agenda, since the day he took office.
and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing.What we are seeing is simply this: The governance that would be done if a Republican plant had been placed in the oval office under false pretenses.