I hate being right ALL the time. But it's especially annoying when three days ago I warned Obama was going to keep right on with the kind of empty, partisan brinkmanship that we saw during the fiscal farce. A deal that ended up raising taxes MORE on lower income workers than it did on the rich while adding over $4 trillion to the national debt. Some deal hunh? But Obama was able to ramrod that bill through, including $76 billion in giveaways to Obama's big business buddies. So naturally Obama wants more and it took him less than a week to demand it!
|Does this look like a man intent on |
serious negotiations on the debt limit?
Obama added that in any debt limit deal "spending cuts must be balanced with more reforms to our tax code." Translation: higher taxes and more smoke and mirrors on spending.
After the obligatory noises about spending cuts Obama warned that we must "cut spending without shortchanging things like education, job training, research and technology." Translation: no real cuts in anything but defense and plenty of new spending for my corporate and green energy campaign contributors.
The Los Angeles Times headlined the latest gambit as "Obama digs in as debt ceiling fight looms." Par for the course. Set up another phony showdown. Paint Republicans as obstructionists who only care about the rich (even though the latest bill would suggest the opposite is true) and play hardball for every partisan advantage you can get.
Is that really the way to bring the country together on the eve of your second Inauguration?
I also find myself in good company this week with columnist Peggy Noonan. Peggy was a bit slow to realize just who and what Obama really is but she wasn't the only one who was fooled so forgiveness is in order. Here's an excerpt from her latest column describing the fiscal cliff deal and Obama's tactics. See if it doesn't remind you of what I said three days earlier:
He won but he did not triumph. His victory didn't resolve or ease anything, and it heralds nothing but more congressional war to come.As long as Obama senses he has a partisan advantage in playing the game this way the problems that confront us will never go away. We'll just continue to lurch from one manufactured crisis to another. In his radio address Obama said "our economy can’t afford more protracted showdowns or manufactured crises along the way." But that's just exactly what he has in mind!
He did not unveil, argue for or put on the table the outlines of a grand bargain. That is, he put no force behind solutions to the actual crisis facing our country, which is the hemorrhagic spending that threatens our future. Progress there—even just a little—would have heartened almost everyone. The president won on tax hikes, but that was an emotional, symbolic and ideological victory, not a substantive one. The higher rates will do almost nothing to ease the debt or deficits.
He didn't deepen any relationships or begin any potential alliances with Republicans, who still, actually, hold the House. The old animosity was aggravated. Some Republicans were mildly hopeful a second term might moderate those presidential attitudes that didn't quite work the first time, such as holding himself aloof from the position and predicaments of those who oppose him, while betraying an air of disdain for their arguments. He is not quick to assume good faith. Some thought his election victory might liberate him, make his approach more expansive. That didn't happen.
After the past week it seems clear Mr. Obama doesn't really want to work well with the other side. He doesn't want big bipartisan victories that let everyone crow a little and move forward and make progress. He wants his opponents in disarray, fighting without and within. He wants them incapable. He wants them confused.
I worried the other day that amid all the rancor the president would poison his future relations with Congress, which in turn would poison the chances of progress in, say, immigration reform. But I doubt now he has any intention of working with them on big reforms, of battling out a compromise at a conference table, of having long walks and long talks and making offers that are serious, that won't be changed overnight to something else. The president intends to consistently beat his opponents and leave them looking bad, or, failing that, to lose to them sometimes and then make them look bad. That's how he does politics.
He is a uniquely polarizing figure. A moderate U.S. senator said the other day: "One thing not said enough is he is the most divisive president in modern history. He doesn't just divide the Congress, he divides the country."