It’s a note that will probably go unheard in today’s mad-as-hell political climate, which is often in conflict with reason, rationality and responsibility. Obama’s Republican negotiators got where there are today by employing angry rhetoric, stoking misdirected anger and making promises that fly in the face of responsibility.
Obama’s defense of his compromise is that Republicans in the Senate — all 42 of them — had vowed to block any legislation until they got what they wanted — an extension of the 2001 tax cuts, the Bush-era legislation that handsomely rewarded the wealthiest Americans. Legislation on controlling nuclear arms, campaign finance reform, smart immigration policy and the aforementioned extension of jobless benefits were caught in the Republicans’ threat.
By Obama’s reckoning, Republicans were hostage-takers. “I have said before that the middle class tax cuts were being held hostage to the high-end tax cuts,” Obama said during a Tuesday news conference.
Bad choice of words. The resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is never a hostage. Or, at least, he or she should never admit to such. The message transmitted with such rhetoric is just too depressing and, frankly, out of touch with reality when considering the skills and staff of this president.
Let’s consider what is being said. A president swept into office two years ago by issuing an inspiring call to put away the politics of the past is stymied by a bloc of lawmakers, many of whom foolishly approved of this budget-busting tax policy in 2001. Really?
Forty-two senators out of 100 can defy a majority of Americans who favor Democratic tax proposals. Really?
Recall that counted among the 42 is Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader and Kentucky Republican who has said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” In the midst of the worst economic crisis in seven decades, McConnell’s solution isn’t to offer solutions; it’s to a president.
So, maybe it’s just as the president claims. What is puzzling is why Obama gave in to Republican demands so readily. Why not put that filibuster threat to the test? Force the 42 Republican senators to choose over the Christmas holidays: Fight for the wealthiest 1 percent or fight for the rest of the nation struggling to pay the bills.
The lobbyists for the super-wealthy far outnumber the ones advocating on behalf of the nation’s middle-class families struggling to stay afloat. The privileged few can extend their reach deep into the halls of power. The rest of the nation isn’t so fortunate. And that’s where you come in, Mr. President.
While those Republican senators are carrying out their filibuster on behalf of the richest Americans, the president could pay a visit to their home states and discuss the folks in need of a job and a little hope.
In Alabama, the president pointed out that the state’s unemployed would fill Jordan-Hare and Bryant-Denny stadiums combined. The top 1 percent of Alabama’s earners could fit comfortably into a couple of sections of one stadium.
The picture is stark. It illustrates the priorities at play. And it would demonstrate the president’s willingness to stand his ground and fight for the whole country, something desperately needed in these days.