Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Obama's Key Weakness (or Two?)

At least this time they know I'm serious.

I've supported almost all of Obama's key initiatives, even if they've often been watered down, mostly by conservative Democrats like Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, Ben Nelson, usually working with various "gangs" whose main job is to Republicanize various pieces of legislation before Republicans soundly reject it anyway. Sometimes these things get enacted, sometimes they don't.

It's during this process that whatever scam is needed gets fit in, such as no negotiating drug prices down in Medicare Part D (under Bush) and no public option (under Obama). It's confounding, but it's the way things work in Washington. No room for scamming, skimming, grifting, no bill gets passed.

It's almost as if on Jan 21, 2009, a Gang of Eight came to Barack Obama and told him, "Forget it, Barack, it's Chinatown." You had to see the movie.

As avaricious as that process is, it's not what I regard as Barack Obama's key weakness. What irks me most is what irks most progressives: His opening bid in the critical negotiations on budget deals regularly includes the final concession that Republicans should pay a serious price to win. Instead, Obama offers it first. He did just that again with chained CPI and Social Security.

The conventional wisdom is that Obama does this as the price for being taken as a member of the Very Serious People, the elite media, think-tank mavens, and lobbying geniuses who Really Know How Washington Works. It's the DC version of domestic Real Politique.

This is a three-fold fail: First, it blows, and second, it's so unnecessary. Third for the fail? It's completely self-defeating, as in self-defeating the Democratic Party.

What part of "the Republicans are never going to compromise, ever, and instead they're going to attack you unremittingly in the midterms for gutting Social Security" don't you understand? And don't even try saying you never did it because it never even reached a vote. Dick Morris has the video.

Republican ad men, cue up the YouTube clips, and get ready for 2014.

Can someone explain to me what Barack Obama hoped to accomplish with this nonsense?
  • Show that the Republicans are the Party of No? People already know that.
  • Position the Democrats to win the next debt-ceiling debate? What, by offering Social Security cuts so that Republicans don't own them before they refuse to negotiate so that you say "Fine, no revenue increases this time, but we'll sure get you next time," and the Dems own the SS cuts and you get nothing? Duh.
  • Now everybody knows you're the adult in the room? Everybody already knows that, only now you're the only adult in the room that cut Social Security.
Heckuva job, Barack.

The only other possible explanation for all this is that Barack Obama has actually been assimilated by the Borg, which would explain why he's caved so many times in negotiations in the past. He isn't being sensible, the adult in the room, the Great Compromiser, he's one of them, not a visionary, just another Max Baucus hack.

One of the pod people.

And don't get me started on Guantanamo Bay.

Barack, you have only so much time. Why do you insist on squandering it with eloquent speeches and lousy backroom deals that you don't even win?

It sounded good in the strategy sessions. Why do I feel like shit? (And look even worse?)

Update. Katrina vanden Heuvel weighs in today at WaPo, speaking directly about this failure:
House Speaker John Boehner’s reflexive reaction immediately revealed the political folly of the president’s ploy:
If the president believes these modest entitlement savings are needed to help shore up these programs, there’s no reason they should be held hostage for more tax hikes.” (Emphasis added)
The exchange has Republicans salivating. Cutting Social Security becomes the president’s choice, not something extorted by Republicans. If Democrats stand for anything, it is defense of Social Security and Medicare, the United States’ most beloved and vital social programs, a proud legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society. The president’s negotiating ploy puts every Democrat supporting the president’s budget in a contested reelection race at peril in 2014. Democrats will face a flood of ads accusing them of wanting to cut Social Security and face the wrath of seniors who constitute a greater percentage of the vote in midterm elections.
If Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have any sense, they will organize their entire caucuses and pledge to oppose any deal that cuts a dime from Social Security benefits.
 Freaking Amen to that.

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