President Obama: Get Into The Ring

by: Cliff Schecter

Sat Dec 18, 2010 at 11:00

In the wake of President Barack Obama's premature capitulation to the Republicans in the tax wars, a party who I might remind you controls neither congressional chamber at this moment (they will take over the House in January), once muted criticism of the Commander-in-Chief on the Left has suddenly erupted into a full scale flurry of condemnation.

There have been calls for other Democrats to primary him in 2012, jeremiads that Progressives should have been treating him as an adversary, and a feeling on the Left, put into words by a Congressman (Rep. Jerry Nadler of New York), that Democrats "can't trust him."

So you could say it's been a somewhat bad month for the president - although that might be akin to saying the guys attending South Carolina's "Secession Ball" will only be missing some of their teeth. The president has not only caved on eliminating budget-busting tax cuts for people who have toilet plungers more expensive than your house, but has backed off long-delayed (but promised) environmental regulations to govern smog and toxic emissions from industrial boilers.

He also negotiated a new Korea Free Trade Agreement that isn't free from deleterious affects on American workers, enacted a freeze in pay for federal employees for reasons nobody can figure out, and was ready to listen to recommendations to cut Social Security from a committee of rich, irrelevant Beltway primates so old they look like they should be starring in Weekend at Bernie's 3.


Cliff Schecter :: President Obama: Get Into The Ring

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He's IN the ring. (4.00 / 5)
Fighting for Republican economic policies.

And the Village pundits think he's had a GREAT month. (Clearly, he does too.) Ever since he finished coming out of the closet as a Republican fellow traveler with the tax "compromise", the Village narrative has been all about his "comeback".

Village Pundits or Village Idiots? (0.00 / 0)
The question is, do we follow them and the Pied Piper over the cliff into total capitulation of the social safety nets, or do we make at least a last stand and take down this absolute Benedict Arnold.  Or, like cowards, fearful of the Great Palin the Barbarian, do we hide behind this traitor to the principles of the New Deal and hope that he will save us and our children some sort of pre-industrial existence.?

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
? (4.00 / 1)
If I think about it rationally, if I come to the conclusion that he is, in fact, center right and farther right than I initially had hoped, what conclusion am I supposed to come to?  I should not be driven by reactive anger and I should hold him to account by clearly and assertively acknowledging that he is not on my side and should be interacted with like that.

But that's different than saying I should not expect better.  I should not hope for better, sure, but if I don't expect better and work realistically to achieve it then what is the point of being a progressive?  And here realistically means rejecting nearly all of the president's politics and asking for something much much better.

p.s. (4.00 / 2)
and to me, that means no longer saying i'm 'rooting' for him or that i in any way think that he's going to shift his politics.  He's not, and someone else needs to be found, if only to put REAL pressure on someone who clearly only responds to pressure.

[ Parent ]
y'all didn't click the more link to Schecter's post on Al Jazeera (0.00 / 0)
Schecter concludes with this:
In other words, when progressives and moderates decide how to confront President Obama's propensity for playing dead at the outset of legislative negotiations over the next two years, one might want to - for once - think like former Donald Rumsfeld, the former secretary of defense. "You go into policy fights with the President you have. Not the one you wish you had."

I guess it just means Progressives should lobby the Administration early and often, or lobby the Democrats to make good on their threats of revolt prior to passage of the tax cut package.  

i read it (4.00 / 2)
i don't see a purpose to stating it other than to reduce opposition to obama.  if you believe that he is 'the President that you have' i.e. he's not going to change, then it becomes more crucial to, in addition to getting into policy fights, replace his Presidency in favor of something better, while still trying to make sure that he doesn't get replaced with something worse.

Which would mean asking for the President you want, not the one you have.

[ Parent ]
I did click the whole article. (4.00 / 3)
And he is wrong about "You go into policy fights with the President you have. Not the one you wish you had."  To objective minds, Obama has proven beyond any doubt, that he is little better than Bush.  And actually, he is much worse because so many on the left continue deluding themselves about what he is doing.

These are harsh words, but he is not "our" President.  He is a confidence man.  He is not weak. He is strong.  And he is doing exactly what he wants to do.  Expecting anything remotely progressive from this man is ridiculous.  It is unlikely that he will respond to pressure from the Left.

He just gave huge tax give away to the rich and charged it to our kids.  He passed a stimulus based on tax cuts with way too little in investment in our infrastructure--so it didn't work, oh yes, the two wars without end, torture anyone?, rendition? sounds good!, serious environmental initiative--not gonna d' it, try the war criminals from the Bush Administration? not gonna d' it again, try the Wall Street criminals? ditto!, he lied about public option an gave us the worst healthcare policy in the developed world, spying on US citizens? why not!, cut/froze Federal employees incomes without even debating it, "free" trade deal with Korea, reads Thomas Friedman--big surprise, empowered sociopathic right wingers on the cat food commission to prepare for the cutting of Social Security and Medicare, has a Tourette's Syndrome like compulsion to ridicule the left, etc.  Need more?

Progressives have to get serious and run against these people, especially Obama.  Or just give it up.

[ Parent ]
There is a movement afoot to get rid of Obama (0.00 / 0)
[ Parent ]
Yeah I thought this was a weird and weak way to conclude (0.00 / 0)
The whole sum of the article is, "Know your President".  Okay, great, but what do we actually do about him?

[ Parent ]
NO STAY OUT (4.00 / 3)
President Obama only furthers the conservative agenda so him on the sideline would really be better!

It is even worse that you state (4.00 / 3)
If a Democrat destroys the New Deal and Great Society legislation, how difficult is it to understand that it will be infinitely harder to restore it than if the GOP makes the changes.  Perhaps it is too late to stop the damage he has done.  But it is not too late to stop the damage he may do.  These corporate elitist whores are testing you.  How far can they go before you kick them out.  And they don't care, because once they leave politics, their future is already secure with six and seven figure jobs.  These so-called liberal politicians, with a few exceptions, don't share your ideological beliefs.  They are campaign specialists, who spend the majority of their time generating campaign funds that they and their associates can funnel off to themselves and their families.  When they no longer have your votes, they just take a job with a lobby firm or one of the corporations they have been giving favors to.  Look at Peter Orzag!

What Obama stands for or will do is no longer up for speculation.  The only question left is what the liberal electorate stands for.  

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
This is my view (4.00 / 2)
social security was safer under George Bush, so why the hell support him.  Anyone who thinks he will defend it after all the letdowns he has given us is a fool, and when he does let you down I will make him eat his words  publically!

My blog  

[ Parent ]
Wedge issues (4.00 / 2)
I understand that DADT, Dream Act and Lilly Ledbetter are good, but they are the wedge issues.  Perhaps these will be enough for the single issue voters to about face and pony up in 2012.   For those of us that care about what is of benefit to all Americans - trade, economy, jobs, taxes, deficits, and preserving Social Security, he won't deliver.    

And that is exactly how the rich keep dividing the poor. (4.00 / 1)
The adolescents of both sides will submarine any new FDR or Truman that comes along.  

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
Lilly Ledbetter (4.00 / 2)
is a labor law.  Justice is a benefit to all Americans.

That said, it's nonsense to believe we could sustain a progressive movement that achieves the things you point to without challenging the idea that women, gays and immigrants are human beings deserving of rights. You offer a false choice.  Democrats have tried giving up on the so called wedge issues for decades, and the only result was to divide Democrats without achieving any victories on the economic front.

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
You make his point (0.00 / 0)
The people who support these wedge issues sit home when their agenda is not up front,.

As much as I admire your writing David, you are wrong on this.  And 40 years of history demonstrates that.  If you and others with this point of view persist.  The progressive movement will become a footnote in history.  

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
Near as I can see (4.00 / 1)
last time everyone sat home because no one's agenda was being moved. it's hard to see how that supports your point.

You suffer from the same problem you criticize - you want others to give up on what they care about to advance what you care about. You won't do that (thankfully) but of course, neither will they, for the same reasons.  I say to all camps - we win together or we lose together. That is what history shows.

One more thing. You misunderstand how a wedge issue works.  DADT repeal is a wedge - for us, not them. Large majorities support it.  It unites most Democrats but splits the Republicans - libertarians, national security Republicans, and the religious right are split on this.  The same is of course true for protecting Social Security - large majorities (including of Republicans) support it, even if that means raising taxes.  Avoiding wedge issues is a proven failure - using them against you opponent is a proven winner.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
I think, David, I've had some pretty good experience in politics (0.00 / 0)
I've sat at dinner with governors, a state atty gnl, Ron Wyden, and any number of state legislators.  I've run a statewide pac, served on numerous professional lobby committees.  I think I understand  wedge issues, and yes, if applied intelligently, they can divide the opponent.  DADT is a good example of this, and I don't think its of much value anymore, since everyone but true bigots favored it.  But issues like gay marriage, abortion, the Dream Act, not so much.  

I can see you and I can't argue this issue, but I would like to say that when it comes time to fight the bread and butter issues again,  I hope you find the political discipline to not drive away supporters who fail to meet certain litmus tests on those social issues you feel are necessary.    

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
Umm (4.00 / 1)
Who said anything about all those other issues? This thread started with three (my best reading of the polling on the DREAM Act suggests you can't put it in that category either). Your comment was rather cryptic if your reference to wedge issues did not reference the issues I was discussing - perhaps you can see why I misunderstood what you were saying.

On the other hand, dismissing what other people care about as important or what they "feel are necessary" are prime examples of alienating potential allies or supporters. Same with litmus tests - which is what we call other people's principles.  Discipline ought to go in all directions. Since I've spent as much time here as anyone focusing attention to the Catfood Commission, the payroll tax holiday, and before that the betrayal of EFCA, it should be clear I don't discount issues of economic rights and security.  

Also, you are simply wrong that issues like the availability of abortion, a path to citizenship, or marriage aren't bread and butter issues. The same is true for civil rights laws like Lilly Ledbetter - which prevent wage theft.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

[ Parent ]
Well,,, I don't think so (0.00 / 0)
And my experience says that you are just one more good example of the far left wishful thinking.  Everything you are trying to promote for some reason beyond me was completely debunked in the 2010 election and will be further rebuked in 2012. So, I guess we have different opinions.  Unfortunately for you,  mine is where the majority of American's lie and you are part of the left dragging the party into an unelectable permanent minority.  

As a result, we lost a major part of the base in 1980.  And we are losing even more in 2010 and 2012.  Good luck with whatever it is you think you know.  

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]
so uh, why can't the whole article just be posted here? (4.00 / 1)
kinda spammy imo

The weirdness of this piece is something (4.00 / 2)
I can't get over.

The headline urges President Obama to "get into the ring."

The second-to-last paragraph (in the Al-Jazeera continuation) says:

Because now is as good a time as any to be realistic about what the president is made of. There will be many battles over the next 2 years. If we are to analyse the problem, and what to do about it, we have to begin by acknowledging the facts.

First: temperamentally, "what the president is made of" is, apparently, not someone who "gets into the ring"-unless that's defined by conceding major policy points to the opposition in advance of the opposition demanding them.

Second: the framing of "what the president is made of"-i.e., he's not a "fighter"-is a variation of the "he's weak" trope. That's a form of denial. Obama is, at his core, a conservative. (As Ian Welsh says, "If Obama wasn't black, he'd be a "moderate" Republican.") He's just presided over an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and allowed a reduction in the payroll tax, paying the way for weakening Social Security, a program Republicans have sought to do away with for almost 70 years! (Prior to that, he supported a health care "reform" which was, in essence, the Republican counter-proposal from the health care reform debacle circa 1994.)

Yeah, I'd say "now is as good a time as any to be realistic" and "we have to begin by acknowledging the facts." It's not quite clear to me that this piece, with the way it's framed, is doing that.

Yup- he IS a fighter. (4.00 / 1)
He has fought liberals tooth and nail whenever they have opposed his right-wing policy proposals. And the so-called progressives have whimpered a little and then rolled over, every time. So I'd say he's won his battles handily.

Why would he fight conservatives when he's one of them?

[ Parent ]
enough already - (0.00 / 0)
the corus of the 'fight' baby 'fight' has become unbearable.
DO you f... know y'all can't have it both -(all) - ways.
Yelling about this American mentality which turns everything into a f... fight- desaster: wars - politics - economics and even TV entertainment and then you got a President who is a 'Lover' and not a fighter and then you try to turn him into the same a...hole like the rest of the wild and ugly bunch!
Why should this dude adjust to the f... fighting style of the f... Republicans!
Y'all make the Republicans change THEIR style or I never going to talk to y'all again!!!
(and you know Christmas is coming - Right?!)

Re: Fighting In The Ring (0.00 / 0)
I'm not happy with everything Obama has done, or with the way he's done it, but it occurs to me, particularly in the wake of repealing DADT, that he is in the ring and fighting---he's just not fighting the way some of us would like him to fight.

Since we're using boxing metaphors, I'll use the Ali-Foreman "Rumble In The Jungle" to illustrate my point.  (Movie recommendation:  "When We Were Kings")

At the time of that fight, George Foreman was a bigger, stronger, saner version of Mike Tyson---just a fearsome puncher who destroyed his opponents in the ring.  It wasn't a question of whether his opponent would be knocked out, just a question of when.

While Foreman was at the peak of his powers, Ali was past his peak---aided and abetted by his years in federal prison for draft resistance.  Among knowledgeable boxing writers and fans, the main pre-fight concern was, literally, whether Ali was so overmatched that he would get killed in the ring.

This is the fight in which Ali unveiled the "Rope-A-Dope" strategy---leaning on the ropes, letting Foreman punch himself out, and then coming off the ropes to knock out Foreman and regain his title.

Long story short:  there are different ways of fighting in the ring.  Different tactics and strategies work better for different fighters and against different opponents.

Obama "fights" differently than some of us would like, e.g., on repealing DADT.  And yet, here at the end of 2010, DADT is being repealed---with the support of top military brass.

I suppose (4.00 / 3)
that if sitting around,
  • allowing the Justice Department to make baseless assertions about "military readiness, combat effectiveness, unit cohesion, morale, good order, discipline, and recruiting and retention" in its effort to stay the District Judge's injunction while
  • waiting for Congress to repeal an odious, perverse policy
  • that harms our military effectiveness (recall the gay Arab linguists, among others, that were discharged) and
  • resulted in the discharge of 428 service members in 2009 alone under President Obama's watch-discharges that he could have made impossible with the stroke of a pen by Executive Order-
  • the repeal of which the vast majority of Americans support (so opposing the policy is hardly political risky)
constitutes "fighting," then, yes, he is one heck of a fighter.

[ Parent ]
All excellent points jeffweinberg... (0.00 / 0)

and yet, at the end of this particular "fight", Obama is still standing, while legendary war hero/politician John McCain is, again, out for the count.

[ Parent ]

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