Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lighten up on President Obama

Official photographic portrait of US President...
 US President Barack Obama 

Plenty of blame is encircling the White House as Democrats express frustration with President Barack Obama over the compromise deal he made with Republicans on tax cuts.

The wealthiest Americans have been given another perk they didn't need and in some cases don't want, along with those who do need it--middle class America.

Liberals are the most furious with Obama, believing that he has been untrue to the base of support that elected him. There is even talk about finding a candidate to run against him in the next presidential primary.

Wait just a darn minute!

First off, it wasn't just liberals that elected Obama. There were plenty of moderate Democrats. Independents, and perhaps even a Republican or two that cast ballots Obama's way. Obama had a multitude of appealing attributes that made him appeal to voters, not the least of which was his intellect and grasp of the issues that affect real people.

Obama is aware that as President of the United States, he is not just the president of his own political party, but he is president of all Americans.

One of his attributes is that Obama was not a Washington insider who had planted his feet firmly into the muck that is D.C. Because of that, he may have lacked a little experience in dealing with the sharks in the Congress who have sharpened their teeth for years.

Personally, I'm not willing to condemn him for that.

I am a little more frustrated with members of Congress. If Democrats were so anxious to end the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans implemented by Bush, why did they ignore  this battle until the 11th hour? They have been the majority party for two years. If this issue was so important, why didn't they put a little effort into it? During the campaign for the November election, I received dozens of emails, phone calls, and pleas for dollars and support.

Why is getting elected more important than governing?

Passing laws is not up to the President, yet he was forced to take a leadership role in the tax cut deal because Democrats didn't act on it. Only when they learned Obama was negotiating with Republicans, did they take a vote in the House. It was no surprise that it failed because they didn't work at it.

I consider myself liberal in my thinking, and yet I know that governing the country requires looking at the big picture--the whole picture.

I dislike the compromise, but I don't fully believe Obama is the problem.

That said, I am completely giving him a pass.

His political inexperience may have caused him to give in a little too quickly when Republicans threatened to block all bills in the Congress until they got what they wanted.  I have to concur with those who criticized Obama for mentioning a compromise even as he was going into the "talks" with Republicans. Perhaps Obama knew something we didn't. Republicans have made no secret that one of their first priorities was to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest of Americans.

I have to fault Obama and Democrats for not pointing out that a tax cut for the top 2 percent of wage earners in this country has no stimulative basis. They have had the tax cuts in place and the economy still tanked. Joblessness has risen while they enjoyed their tax breaks. There is no evidence nor does it make sense that the status quo will cause job creation.

Still, I believe we must not judge Obama too quickly. Obama has had a full plate--inheriting an economic crisis caused by Bush's wars, wealth bailouts, weakening regulations, and other actions. This is only Obama's first half of his first term.

I want it all too, but I am wise enough to recognize that we can't always get everything we want.

Yes, Obama could have/should have used the tools available to him to shame Republicans in numerous national addresses to the people, on television and in editorial pages across the country. He could have waged a campaign-like initiative to inspire the public to lobby their representatives, but it isn't like he was just sitting on his hands. The man has had his hands full.

I believe Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and others are acting like bullies. Do you beat a bully by pissing him off? I don't think so. It may just be more effective in the long run to out-think him. Shaming the Republicans with which Obama disagrees philosophically, would do nothing to help us get through the next two years. We cannot afford more of the gridlock we have experienced in the past when so much needs to be done to get the country back on track.

As we criticize Obama, are we thinking about the future--particularly the next two years?

I guarantee he is. I believe he is planting the seeds that will grow into future compromise, an even more vital commodity when Republicans control the House. Obama does not have the luxury of just washing his hands of them, much as he and we would prefer. He has to deal with them. I'm sure the November election altered his game plan. It had to.

We always say we want real people who we can trust to serve in office.

Yet we inherently don't trust them. We are critical at every juncture. Obama evaluated the situation and did what he thought was right. He kept his eyes on the prize--which was retaining the previous tax cuts for middle class Americans. While he found the tax cut on the top 2% distasteful, as evidenced by numerous statements and even mentioned in the first chapter of his book, there is no question that he didn't enjoy giving in on that front. But that was not his focus. His focus was help for the middle class. And his mandate was to reach across the aisle and to bring the two sides together.

Imagine the consequences if the tax cuts expired. People most unable to deal with it would have been harmed even more. The ripple effect would have derailed any hope of recovery. Obama may have been right not to fight to the bitter end. This would only have further alienated Republicans causing them to further dig in their heels.

It is nice that Democrats in congress say they are willing to go to the mat to fight the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. Fighting for principal is a good thing. I've done it all my life.

But I'm not the President of the United States. Obama can't afford to fight only on  principal because he no longer has that luxury. He must govern us all, even the rich. While the American people won't remember this when the next election cycle rolls around; Obama will. Democrats will. If the rich Republicans don't create the jobs they promise, and help the economy out of the tank, Democrats will hold them accountable to the electorate. The news media will not let rich Republicans get away with it if they fail.

Tax breaks for the wealthy is not a stimulus for job growth. Had it been, we would not have seen unemployment continue to rise during this time--while they enjoy their tax breaks. There is no sound reason for Republicans to get this perk.

Time will likely show that another tax break for the richest two percent of the country was wrong. But it will be so much easier to prove in the future if they fail to produce jobs they promised. This little battle between the President and his own party has made the public aware.

While I too was frustrated with Obama, I am most disgusted by the members of Congress which has failed to act time and time again.

Mostly, I'm disgusted with the electorate--the seemingly good people of this country who believe all the crap the Republicans have sold to them. There is no excuse for the harsh results of the November election except to say that Democrats failed.

The folks who put all those Republicans in office pride themselves in being blind followers. They follow their lord and they follow their political leaders, believing theirs is the only way. They must learn that theirs isn't the only way. There are many other ways. Democrats need to do a better job to educate the electorate--even if it means a little compromise among us on our own independent views.
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