Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Obama's Comeback?

This last two and a half weeks have been, to say the least, very exciting from political wonks like myself.

First, seemingly out of nowhere, President Obama announced he and the GOP leadership had worked out a compromise over how to solve the expiring Bush Tax Cuts issue. This compromise included extending the Tax levels established by President Bush for two years, lowering the payroll tax for virtually all Americans, and extend unemployment benefits. This compromise came as a shock to Conservatives and Liberals alike in both how sudden it came about and what was included in the deal. How each side saw the deal however is much different.

Liberals, not shockingly, were shocked and down right angry that this deal had been struck without their participation. They believed (and still do) that this "compromise" was more like capitulation. In other words, they believe this deal gave too much to Republicans than was necessary. Liberals were of the belief that if they couldn't get middle class tax cuts passed and have the upper class tax cuts expire, they should just let all the tax cuts expire at the end of the year. Why? Because they believed that if they let all the tax cuts expire, they could blame the Republicans for not "doing the right thing" and the American people would blame the GOP for their suddenly higher taxes....Does that really make sense to any sane person?

Democrats, who the vast majority of Americans associate with higher taxes, believed that somehow their letting the tax cuts all expire and trying to blame it on the GOP would actually get them points with the American people...With beliefs like these it's no real wonder why the Democratic Party has had such a rough time the last 2 years.

Conservatives on the hand were fairly cautious of this compromise because this bill was not "paid for", meaning there were no corresponding cuts elsewhere to pay for at least some of this compromise. Nevertheless, they largely supported this move by the President they have loved to hate for the last two years and likely enjoyed seeing how angry Liberals were at the President for the next two weeks.

And boy were they mad..Geez. I will freely admit that when it comes to which major cable news channel I watch (FOX or MSNBC), I normally watch MSNBC, but these last few weeks have really bothered me. Now, it would be fairly understandable for the political commentators on MSNBC to be furious over this compromise since none of them hide their Liberal views, but the more non-political regular news broadcast during the daytime was so politically charged. All they could talk about was how much Obama had sold out the left wing of his party for the last two years and how he is always 'scolding' them about how ungrateful they are. They even suggested that there could be a Democratic primary challenge to Obama in 2012! It was so much anger and whining, I actually turned the TV over to FoxNews to get my regular news broadcast (though I still avoid the commentary shows)...

More or less, if you only watched MSNBC for the last two weeks, you would think the President had just committed some high crime in the Liberal world and had become a member of the GOP (a point hit hard by Keith Olbermann). Of course, this whole compromise was terribly overblown. While Liberals preached out evil this bill was and how they would never let it get out of the House of Representatives (which Liberals have much more power than in the Senate), when the time came for the vote, most caved and voted for the compromise. There was a fair amount of defection from both parties when it came to the House vote, but the Senate's vote of 81 to 19 was so decisive it made the vote in the House almost a formality. Why did the Liberal part of the Democratic party much such a fuss and then fold like a house of cards? I think Charles Krauthammer summed it up best in his recent article of Obama's impressive post-Midterm comeback:

"Despite this, some on the right are gloating that Obama had been maneuvered into forfeiting his liberal base. Nonsense. He will never lose his base. Where do they go? Liberals will never have a president as ideologically kindred - and they know it. For the left, Obama is as good as it gets in a country that is barely 20 percent liberal. "
The second big political master stroke of President Obama as of late is the passage of the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the United States Armed Forces. Many had written off this repeal effort weeks ago because of the drag out political fight that was going on over the Bush tax cuts expiring and the so-to-be battle of the New START treaty. Some speculated that there would be some kind of trade off between the DADT repeal and some kind of deal with the Republicans on the tax cut issue. Regardless, most commentators considered the effort a bust.
But that all changed several days ago. All the sudden, there were reports the Democrats were rallying support among their party members in the Senate for a vote on DADT repeal and were actively lobbying some Republicans for the vote as well. These efforts were effective enough that the night before the final vote, it was all by certian the DADT repeal would pass. And when the final vote came down, there 57 Democrats and 8 Republicans voting to repeal DADT.
Two arguably Bipartisan votes in less than two weeks on such public policy issues should not be taken lightly. These votes are even more impressive considering they were accomplished during a so-called "lame duck" session of Congress. But these would not be the only bipartisan bills to pass into Law before the 111th Congress went home for the last time.
The last major piece of legislative success to be achieved by President Obama was the passage of the New START treaty. In my last post, I pointed out that while Democrats were claiming this treaty to be more important than othe domestic issues, I disagreed and believed that the treaty should wait until the Tax cut issue was resolved, even if that meant it would next year before it was voted on. However to my own shock, the tax compromise removed that roadblock and weakened the GOP's argument that the New START treaty could wait til next year. This was further pushed by the fact the President Obama announced he would stay in Washington until it was passed (even though his family had already left for the holidays). With all this pressure, it was not really much of a shock how the final vote came down. The final tally was 71 to 26, with 13 Republicans crossing the party line and voting with the Democrats.
With all these successes and shockingly bipartisan votes, where does this leave President Obama? As Mr. Krauthammer suggests in his recent article, President Obama has trully become the "New Comeback Kid". He was had managed to achieve something even the 'great' Bill Clinton could not achieve: Rebound with a major political compromise personally negoated between himself and the opposing GOP and pass several major pieces of legislation is a "lame-duck" session of Congress..All just a little under two months after his party's massive losses in the mid-term elections. Quite impressive indeed..
My kudos Mr. President