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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Ritalin, Anyone?

I haven't seen much MSNBC lately, but when I tuned in tonight at the end of Olberman's "Special Comment," I could tell that it was ON, bitches! Nostrils flaring, ears steaming, ready to rumble with the Republicans, ON!!! Except that he wasn't raging at the GOP, but Obama. Seems Keith no likely the tax cut compromise. Bordering on Glenn Beck hostility. Oh.

Maddow, always ready to be "talked off a ledge," would have to be better right? Sorry, no. This was by far the worst Maddow show I've ever seen (have I seen a bad Maddow show before? I can't remember one). A really dishonest analysis of the tax deal. First, she acts like Dems gave the GOP everything they wanted on taxes. Not true. They wanted permanent extension of the Bush rates. They got two years. And Obama stated clearly that he drew a "line in the sand" on making that permanent. In following this debate over the last several weeks, it has seemed a pretty standard expectation that about the best the Dems could do, after having foolishly punted this from pre-election to post-election, was to offer a temporary compromise exactly like what we got. Senate Dems tried to approve the middle-class only cuts--but they failed to get 60 votes. Nice try, but it's about the VOTES! This wasn't Maddow's only misrepresentation of events. When she chalks up what the Dems got and what they lost, she never mentioned the 13-month extension of unemployment benefits. Come on, that was key here. Sherrod Brown finally came on and mentioned them, but only to dismiss their significance, since "Republicans always cave on that," albeit at the last possible moment.

Now, this is deeply misleading. True, the GOP usually caves on this, but they're facing a vastly improved legislative environment in just a month, and this is not the only bill Dems are trying to push through the lame duck Congress. Getting a deal on taxes should open the door for consideration of DADT and START, both of which are hugely important. And yet absolutely no one on Maddow saw fit to mention this. Brown's argument seemed to be that Obama should have trusted Senate Dems to beat down the GOP over the next two weeks, as if you can ever trust Senate Dems to beat down anybody. Dude, you're in the Senate--have you even met your colleagues? Meanwhile, there are several Republicans who have said that they would vote for those other measures if a tax deal got worked out first. If Dems want to take the tax fight "to the mattresses" they have to know that they're most likely strangling in the crib all the other issues they're supposedly fighting for right now. It is, of course, possible that Obama has failed to get solid commitments from Snowe, et al. on DADT and START, and we're still going to lose those. But this play could work, while if we go with the left's preferred strategy, we get bupkis. Will I allow the rich to get their Bush tax cuts for two more years so that I can get DADT repeal and START? Hell yes I will. Unlike the GOP two-year tax reprieve, those would be accomplishments that can't be rolled back.

Thank God for Lawrence O'Donnell. Finally someone with an understanding of legislative process. I was a little worried when his panel of guests included three lefty "purists" (Adam Green, Jane Hamsher, and Roger Hodge) and one lonely pragmatist (Ezra Klein). But then Larry diced and sliced the hard liners so expertly I thought I was watching Morimoto on Iron Chef. Without even mentioning the DADT and START issues, O'Donnell made a powerful case that there was simply no practical alternative to doing a deal much like this one. If the Dems hold out for symbolic reasons and tax rates go up for all Americans in January, Congress won't be able to do a retro-fix, and Obama will get tagged as the guy who raised everyone's taxes during a recession. And Obama managed to get big stimulus tax cuts for the working class while he was at it, in amounts that Klein pointed out dwarfed the estate tax provisions that they had to trade for them.

I can't say for sure that Obama got a great deal, or that he couldn't have gotten a better one. But I'm pretty sure he got a decent one and that the Senate Dems didn't have any better plan. I should have known the freak out was coming when I caught the tail end of Obama's press conference on NPR earlier today--the part where he went after the "sanctimonious" purists in his base. His rhetoric of pragmatism was clearly aimed for guys like me who have never minded occasionally "punching the hippies," as Atrios has so memorably called it. But the hippies have gotten tired of getting punched, and they want to prove they're up for the fight, even if they're mainly flailing wildly at the older brother who's trying to keep them from getting their asses kicked, once again, by the schoolyard bullies. Nice gumption, guys. Let's start throwing those punches where they belong.

One final thought. Everything Maddow said about Obama tonight played right into GOP narratives about Dems in disarray. She even used FOX News clips as trustworthy evidence. And she did an entire segment on how thrilled the GOP was at this "compromise," meaning that Obama got rolled. Oops. Don't look now, but it looks like DeMint and the Tea Party may not be on board. Her best evidence for this claim was an edited set of remarks from McConnell's press avail. Did she notice that he looked as if he had swallowed a shit pie? Or acknowledge that since he was the chief negotiator for the GOP, he HAD to defend the deal just as Obama did. His supporting HIS deal has absolutely no bearing on whether or not he WON that deal. Come on, people, this is Politics 101. Can't anyone here play this game?


At 10:47 AM, Blogger fronesis said...

I pretty much buy most of what you say here, but I've got just one question. It concerns this key quote, describing the result if Obama doesn't compromise:
"Obama will get tagged as the guy who raised everyone's taxes during a recession."

Is it not at all possible that it would be the republicans who get this tag? Because that was the truth of the matter: the republicans would rather see everyone's taxes return to earlier rates than to let the tax cuts on the rich expire. Now I realize that truth and truthiness are not the same thing, but I just can't help but wonder if this wasn't the chance for the democrats to "change the game" by making the republicans show their cards. I realize that this would have been at the expense of unemployment benefits, but I still wonder if it might have been worth it.

Any compromise bill that goes through will be "Obama's legislation." So Obama will cut taxes on the rich and piss off the left, and in 18 months unemployment is still going to be way over 9% (it just IS; there's nothing they can do right now to head it off) and Obama will get blamed for this economy and the American electorate will put even more tea partiers in office.

That's my fear.

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Gina said...


Read the analysis by David Leonhardt titled "In Tax Plan, a Boost for Jobs" in the December 7, 2010, New York Times. Very reasoned, very fair.

At 9:52 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Fro, the reality of US politics is that the president gets the blame when things are bad and the credit when they are good, especially since a shockingly low % of the population knows who controls Congress, much less what Congress is actually doing. Which is why the GOP can do something insane like filibuster a health care bill for 9/11 responders and know with some confidence that they will face no real repercussions.

Obama has ONE political imperative right now: grow the economy, and the faster the better since employment is a "lagging indicator." We just spent a couple of weeks talking about how the GOP were trying to "sabotage" the economy, knowing Obama would get blamed if they succeeded. True. But Obama just made those fuckers blink. They have agreed to a significant stimulus bill that will boost growth substantially in 2011. Krugman is all upset that this may slightly depress growth in 2012, but the numbers (3.8 vs 3.5) are small, and the boost in 2011 more than makes up for it. The key is to develop a narrative EARLY about the "Obama recovery." This will prevent primary challenges to Obama and allow the employment #s to start moving in the right direction faster. Think about what happened to GHWB in 1992. A recovery had already started, but no one really believed it yet, so Clinton's economic theme was a big winner.

I don't think I need to say how important keeping Obama in the White House is. He needs to protect the ACA until it is fully implemented, and he may have a window for other key reforms in 2013 if he can get a solid win in 2012. (He'll also be able to make sure the Bush tax cuts for the top 2% die. His negotiating position will be stronger in two years if the economy improves.) I think this deal could do it. IF, those moron Dems in Congress will suck it the fuck up, swallow their pride, and PASS THE DEAL.

Gina, liked the Leonhardt.


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