And so it would seem that the President has become the Great Unifier after all.
Too bad he had to commit political suicide in order to do it.
But, hey, at least he managed to finally unify the majority of the country. Everybody, it seems, wants his blood now. Finally, something we can all agree on.
In the cold gray light of this bitter December morning, the howling has reached deafening volume and the knives are out.
The Right, of course, already hated him. No, strike that, hate is not the right word. Hate doesn’t include the gut wrenching disgust they feel knowing that Barack Obama is sitting in the Oval Office. Hate doesn’t include the gnawing fear they feel – fear that the wrong people, from the wrong side of the tracks, from the wrong side of the political aisle, from the wrong social class, from the wrong race, from the wrong school, from the wrong father, from the wrong world, are invading their private domain, stealing their country, usurping their place. They loathe him, and they have with a furious red-eyed passion verging on gibbering violent insanity since the minute he first walked up the front steps of the White House. Those staid conservatives remind me of old American Blue Bloods, those aristocratic lily white New Englanders from the old families who can trace their lineage back to Jamestown or the Mayflower. The movers and shakers, the ones that live in the big houses in Martha’s Vineyard and the penthouses on 5th Avenue. They own the money and the power, they own the factories and the businesses and the old department stores and high-class hotels. They live in the right communities. They go to the right church. They have the right friends. They own the world. It is theirs by inheritance, by tradition, by destiny, by birthright. Their world revolves in accordance with a set plan, as it did for their fathers, and as it will for their children. And then, one day without warning, their precious daughter, America, came home from college with her new boyfriend – a black man. A goddamned black man. A liberal. One of them. There he sits at the dinner table, he’s polite and intelligent and articulate and a student of law – but all they see are those big jug ears and that white smile and it’s everything they can do to limit their appalled outrage to barbed soto voice comments about fried chicken and watermelon. All they see is the help acting like an equal in their midst and they’re mortified at the thought of what their friends down at the country club are going to think. No, hate is the wrong word, it’s the wrong word because it doesn’t even begin to describe the sense of violation they feel knowing that later tonight he’s going to be giving their daughter the high hard one under their very own roof. They’ll never accept him. Never. And they’re going to do everything they can, whatever it takes, to end this relationship before it goes any further. He’s not going to be their son-in-law. There will be no progeny. Never. Period. They intend to make it like it never happened. They’ve got powerful friends who know how to fix these things, morality doesn’t enter into it, that’s how it’s done. People need to know their place.
And the Left? Well the Left is now the woman scorned – and Hell, as they say, hath no fury like that bitter angry bitch. They loved him once, yes they did. They remember what it was like at the beginning, he was different and exciting and good in bed. He was exotic and maybe a little taboo. He recited poetry and took them on fabulous dates. And at night he rocked their world. In their head they’d already married him, picked out fabric swatches and named the children, a girl if I remember right. Oh sure, he had his flaws, what man doesn’t, right? But they were going to fix those, turn him into the perfect Norman Rockwell painting. He said he’d change, but after a while they came to the sickening realization that it was hopeless. It turned out that he had a mind of his own. It turned out that he was just like all the rest. What a goddamned disappointment he turned out to be. And the most galling part? Listening to the Right and their mocking taunts, we told you so we told you so nyah nyah. There is no hatred so bitter as that what used to be love. They’re cursing his name to their friends and plotting revenge. Monday they’ll talk to a lawyer and the bastard isn’t going to get a fucking thing.
Both sides are blinded by passion, different passions, but passion nonetheless.
However, in the cold gray light of this December morning, after waiting two days for the other shoe to drop, looking at the President’s decision on the Tax Cut Bill dispassionately, I think he did the right thing.
No, to answer your question, I haven’t lost my mind. Nor have I lost faith in this President. Just the opposite, in fact.
Yes, I know. Go on, get it out of your system, just try not to break anything important … and try not to hit anything with the bones of your hands, that’s what sticks and stones are for, trust me on this.
Perhaps it’s my military background.
It is far, far too easy to win the battle ... and then lose the war. That’s what happens when you lose sight of the objectives. Far too often on the battleground you’re forced to choose between lousy options. Far too often you don’t get to pick your enemies – or your allies for that matter. You end up working with people you dislike, hurting people who are your friends, making choices you hate, and making sacrifices that will haunt you for the rest of your life. Far too often you have to compromise, and compromise again, losing the respect of those you value, in order to achieve the real objective. It is a foolish commander indeed who fights the imaginary conflict his nation thinks they are fighting. It is the utterly ineffective and hapless commander who fights the war he wishes he was fighting. It is the stupid and brutish commander who fights a war of inflexible political principle. The wise commander instead understands that the real conflict is defined by the realities of the battlespace. To expand on Bismark’s original thought: war, like politics, is the art of the possible.
This morning a lot of Democrats feel betrayed.
The Huffington Post started spitting venom yesterday morning, they even stopped speculating about Wikileaks long enough for one editor to ask “Is Obama Stupid?” HuffPost commenters, liberals in the majority and normally generally supportive of the president, in large part agree that he must be, stupid that is – and I had to look twice to make sure that I hadn’t accidentally stumbled into a forum hosted by FoxNews or Yahoo. Soon to be ex-Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi called the President’s tax plan “a bridge too far,” but an aide for a prominent Democratic Senator went further and was quoted angrily saying that “the president fucked up!” The media and the internet are aflame with white hot passion and a lot of folks on the Left sound an awful lot like that aforementioned spurned ex.
I can understand this. I can. But, it does you no good whatsoever, especially in Washington, to wish for those things that simply are not going to happen. You can stand on principle, inflexible and resolute – you may win the battle, but you will lose the war. You will. If you want to achieve the real objective, you have to maneuver within the constrains defined by the battlespace. Politics is, indeed, the art of the possible.
What is possible may not be what you wanted, exactly.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: If you always get what you want, you’re not living in a democracy.
Yeah, sure, but neither is it a democracy if we never get what we want. Right? That’s the anger talking. The Left has gotten plenty of things they wanted in the last two years, and the Right too, and it won’t take you long to make a list if you stop and think about it dispassionately for a minute. It’s easy today to point at the president and say, he sucks at compromise, he sucks at negotiation, we got screwed!
What was the objective?
No, not what was your objective, not what was Democratic Party’s objective, not what was the objective of Democrats in Congress, what was the President’s objective with this tax bill?
He made it clear: 1) Do nothing to destroy the fragile economic recovery. Period. Debt and deficit reduction are secondary to that. 2) Extend unemployment benefits, this has to happen now and it should have happened a month ago, and 3) Do not allow the Bush Era tax cuts to expire for the middle class.
The Republicans in the current lame duck Congress have made it abundantly clear that they aren’t going to do a goddamned thing, nothing, that serves the president’s agenda – and they will actively block any attempts to move legislation forward.
The Republicans in the new Congress have made it abundantly clear that they aren’t going to do a goddamned thing to further the president’s goals either – and in fact intend to reverse the gains the Left has made over the last two years.
The new Speaker of the House has stated publically that his primary objective is to ensure that the president is not reelected.
This is the battlespace the President must operate in.
He could pretend it otherwise, he could wish it otherwise, he could stand pat on principle – and in each case there will be only one loser, those Americans who can least afford it.
The Republicans will not lose, in fact, they’ll win the White House and Senate – and that’s exactly what they’re counting on.
The Rich will not lose, because they never do. If they end up paying more, so will the poor and middle class. The difference is that the rich can afford it.
Hell, even Barack Obama will not lose. If he stands pat, he’ll lose the office, sure, but the way things are going he will anyway. He’ll be a one term Democrat. Another Jimmy Carter. But when he leaves office he’ll still have been the first black president and history won’t be able to take that away from him and he’ll still be rich and he’ll still command million dollar speaking fees and he’ll still have a Nobel Peace Prize and he can always go back to teaching constitutional law at any college he so chooses.
No, the only people who will lose, if the president stands pat, is us - the republicans have made that absolutely clear and demonstrated their resolve. The president himself said, it was like negotiating with hostage takers. And you know what? It sure sounds good to say you won’t negotiate with hostage takers. It sounds noble and principled. Go on, kill them. We’re not budging. Sure that sounds good.
Unless you happen to be one of the hostages that is.
This isn’t the movies. Bruce Willis isn’t going to blast his way into Congress and take out the obstructionists. You want the hostages back alive? You better give the sons of bitches what they want.
The president traded tax breaks for the rich, including the Estate Tax, for the things he really wanted, unemployment benefits, no rise in taxes for the middle class, and preservation of economic recovery. It probably cost him reelection. It cost him the support of his own party. It cost him the respect of you, his own supporters – the very people who would have lost the most if he had stood pat on principal. He got the Republicans to agree, even if he had to buy their agreement, after they had firmly demonstrated a willingness to shoot the hostages. Time was running out, it’s now or never. If the lame duck session of Congress doesn’t act, we all lose. And the only way to get the lame duck to do anything was to buy the cooperation of the obstructionist Republicans, there is no time for anything else. And the Democrats? They’ll agree too. Yes they will. They already have, enough of them anyway, reluctantly, with gritted teeth, but they will pass the president’s bill.
Two years. The President bought two years.
Why is that significant, I wondered? Why not extend them for four years or ten or permanently? Why two years?
And so I waited to write this post. I didn’t figure I would have to wait for long.
You did catch the President’s interview on NPR on Friday morning, yes? He intends to overhaul the tax code. Think about that. Think about what that means. Think about the timing. Notice the lack of Republican response.
Sucks at compromise?
Sucks at negotiation?
Suck at getting what he really wants?
He did what he had to do to achieve the real objective. Most likely he gave up any chance at a second term to do it. I strongly suspect that the President of the United States sacrificed the respect of his own party and people and his political career in order to do what was right for the nation as a whole. History will certainly tell. I listened to his voice yesterday morning, and he sure as hell didn’t sound like a man who’d sold his people out. Again, maybe it’s my military experience. My particular military experience. I’ve known a hell of a lot of self centered assholes in my time, those who could always be counted on to put their own careers ahead of their people every single time. But I’ve known a number of fine, fine NCOs and Officers who would, and did, give everything for their men.
And I know the difference when I see it.
Well, you have to decide which of your principles really matter.