Archive for November 6th, 2010

Obama’s Impending Tax-Cut Cave-In

November 6th, 2010 No comments

I’m willing to bet anyone €1,000 that Barack Obama will concede to Republicans’ demands to extend the Bush tax-cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. I’m dead serious. I’ve never been more certain of anything in politics, and when you’re certain of something you want to make some money gambling on it. The only problem is that I don’t think I’d be able to find anyone dumb enough to take the other end of the bet.

Here’s the situation. After the 2010 electoral blow-out handing control of the House of Representatives to the Republican Party, the conventional wisdom is that Democrats lost their majority because they were unwilling to compromise enough with Republicans. Never mind that this is completely absurd—Obama did nothing but compromise—it’s the story that most of the media is going with.

So what better way to push back against that narrative than to reach a compromise with the Republicans over the tax-cuts issue? Obama’s stated position is that he wants to extend the Bush tax cuts for 98% of Americans but let the tax-rates for the wealthiest 2% revert back to Clinton-era levels. The Republican Party’s position is that all of the tax cuts should be extended permanently.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that Obama is leaning toward compromise:

In his news conference on Wednesday, after Republicans took the House and gained seats in the Senate, Mr. Obama stuck to his argument that it was important to extend the tax cuts for the middle class while expressing flexibility by saying he was “absolutely” willing to negotiate on the matter.

Don’t worry too much though—he’s drawn a line in the sand:

But at his afternoon briefing, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, made clear that the one thing Mr. Obama will not negotiate about is a permanent extension of the high-income tax cuts. “The president does not believe, and I think would not accept, permanently extending the upper-end tax cuts,” he said.

He won’t permanently extend the tax-cuts for the wealthy, but he’s not saying anything about extending them temporarily.

Won’t somebody, anybody, please bet me €1,000 that Obama won’t even agree to a temporary extension? I’m as certain that he will as I am that it will rain somewhere on Earth today.

Obama’s 2012 strategy is painfully clear. Continue playing the bipartisan-outreach game. Keep working with Republicans as much as possible, and force them to keep obstructing. Make it as clear as possible in the minds of the public that he is trying to work with Republicans but the Republicans won’t let him.

But they will work with him on getting those Bush tax-cuts extended for the wealthy. They’ll call it “compromise” behind closed doors but once the deal is made they’ll immediately rush out in front of the cameras to brag about how they got Barack-the-dog to heal, to see the error of his ways and agree not to raise taxes on the “job-creators” in a time of a recession. As an added bonus, they can still blame him for the economic mess that the tax-cuts won’t get us out of because they’ll claim those “job creators” would have created a lot more jobs if they’d had the security of knowing the tax-cuts would be permanent.

As long as the Washington conventional wisdom is that Obama needs to adopt more Republican proposals, that’s exactly what Obama will do. He is undoubtedly one of the weakest presidents this country has ever had. He could respond to the election results by coming back strong, but instead he’ll take the path of least resistance and do what everyone in the establishment wants him to do: lie low, let the Republicans call all the shots, and prepare to be destroyed in 2012.

I’ll close with the only bit of hope I can muster, by mentioning that Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks is hosting the 3:00 hour on MSNBC all month, so check him out if you can. He’ll be pushing back against the prevailing narrative that the election was lost because Democrats did too much and he’ll be urging them to fight harder. Hopefully some will be listening.

Olbermann’s Suspension: Idiocy or Genius?

November 6th, 2010 No comments

Thanks to all of the lefty-organizations I get e-mails from, the first piece of news to greet me this morning was that MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann was suspended without pay for failing to obtain permission to privately donate money to a couple of Democratic candidates he supported.

Politico reported Friday that Olbermann had donated $2,400 each to Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, and to Kentucky Senate contender Jack Conway. While NBC News policy does not prohibit employees from donating to political candidates, it requires them to obtain prior approval from NBC News executives before doing so.

My first reaction was, “Seriously? No…seriously?” The whole rationale behind any type of restrictions on a journalist’s freedom to privately donate to political campaigns is to prevent the appearance of bias on the part of the news organization. If this were the anchor of a prime-time network news broadcast, it would be somewhat understandable. You want the people watching to believe they’re getting an objective presentation of the facts, and if you know the anchor has donated money to one side you’ll know he leans in a certain direction.

But this is Keith fucking Olbermann, for fuck’s sake! Did anyone think he was giving people a purely objective presentation of the facts? Were people somehow missing the opinion-laced questions he asks in every single interview? Did everyone tune out during the frequent special comments segments in which he passionately rants about issues he cares about? Or how about the nightly “Worst Persons in the World” segment? How many times does he have to say, “You, sir, are a disgrace” before the audience realizes the man has an opinion?!

This is utterly absurd. Countdown is MSNBC’s most popular program and to suspend its host for something so trivial is nonsensical. Yes, they are a private company and were within their rights to do so, but they were also well within their rights to let him off with a slap on the wrist.

But that may in fact be the calculation. Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC and the man who made the call, may simply be responding to the sentiment expressed in Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity that MSNBC is the liberal equivalent of Fox News. This notion has been thoroughly debunked all over the blogosphere and by Olbermann himself, but it still persists in much of the minds of the public and Griffin may have figured that this move would do well to push back against it.

So he temporarily suspends Keith, making his network appear to be deeply concerned with journalistic integrity, and then brings him back after a sufficient interval. Keith gets some extra publicity and triumphantly returns with a significant ratings boost. Everybody wins.

But somehow I don’t think this was a calculated move on Griffin’s part. I think it was a knee-jerk, Shirley Sherrod-firing kind of thing, and he’ll be kicking himself for it in a few days if he isn’t already doing so. More than a hundred thousand people have already signed a petition demanding his reinstatement, and the liberal blogosphere is exploding with calls for a temporary boycott of MSNBC. This smells like more of a stupid move than a sly one.

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Silver Lining: Blue Dogs Go Down

November 6th, 2010 No comments

As a follow-up to my extremely pessimistic post-election day rant on Wednesday, I was going to write a lengthy entry today about all of the silver linings in the dark cloud that was Tuesday’s mid-term election. From the Tea Party’s losses to the corporate-friendly ballot initiatives that failed, there were a few reasons to feel relieved or even slightly hopeful, but because there are a couple of other things I feel compelled to comment on today I’ll make this a short post and focus on what I see as the most significantly positive thing about the elections: the heavy losses suffered by the Blue Dog coalition.

If anyone reading this doesn’t know, the “Blue Dogs” are a caucus of Democrats from more Republican-leaning districts who tout themselves as fiscal conservatives. The caucus arose in 1994 out of the idea that the Democratic Party had suffered so badly in those mid-terms because it had drifted too far to the left. The Blue Dogs have been a thorn in the side of liberal Democrats ever since, attempting to win over the voters in their home districts by standing in opposition to their own party from time to time. Most memorably, it was the Blue Dogs who forced the most painful concessions in last year’s debate over health care reform. Had it not been for them, we might have ended up with some kind of public option or Medicare buy-in.

But rather than push to make the bill more progressive, they stood against it until they felt it was sufficiently conservative, i.e. acceptable to the private health insurance industry. They bowed before all of the conservative propaganda about how a public option was akin to some kind of socialist takeover of government and voted against the bill until the very end. They believed they could have it both ways—get points for opposing the bill and points for passing it. They believed their voters would interpret their actions as moderate and centrist, which they believed is what Americans want to see from their elected representatives.

Well, it turns out they were wrong. 22 of the 46 Blue Dogs running for re-election on Tuesday lost their seats. This may not seem like a total blow-out, but considering how difficult it is to unseat an incumbent, a loss of nearly half their caucus is a pretty big deal.

If anyone in Washington would actually get the right message for once, they’d interpret this to mean that you can’t have it both ways. Liberals hated the Blue Dogs for standing in the way of progressive policies, and conservatives hated the Blue Dogs for being Democrats. This is a polarized nation. Nobody votes for a candidate based on how indistinguishable they are from the other party’s candidates. Blue Dogs behaved like Republicans but it turned out Republican voters would rather have the genuine article.

Maybe now Democratic politicians won’t be so eager to work against their own party in an effort to win independents. The Blue Dog caucus is now powerless in the House, as congressional Republicans no longer need to reach out to them in order to swing votes their way. They might as well just vote with their party, as nobody is going to give them any credit for switching sides.

Now if we could just get the message through to Obama…