Obama the Compassionate Compromiser

August Pollack nails it:

The 2012 Republican nomination race seems to be a battle over which candidate has the most proven record of being horrible to people. Thankfully, the president feels that we can reach a compromise and only kick people in the head instead of the balls. I am so ready to win the future.

Make the compassionate choice: concussions over nut-kicks.  Just as Bush was dubbed a “Compassionate Conservative”, Obama has proven himself a “Compassionate Compromiser”, a tool of corporate interests and no friend to privacy rights.  He’s up against what is looking like a truly horrifying Republican field with the two most likely candidates, Bachman and Perry – full on psychotic theocrats hell bent on a Ultra Conservative Christian Nation.

Here is our choice in 2012:

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Obama on the Debt: Weaker Than Weak

Boehner walked away from debt talks with Obama.  Given how insanely far Obama has bent, this is madness.  Or maybe just good strategy.

Obama has ruled out the simple answer, the constitutional option.  However that, coupled with how this damning quote (emphasis mine), slams home the reality that our President wants to sabotage his own efforts:

“Essentially what we had offered Speaker Boehner was over a trillion dollars in cuts to discretionary spending. Both domestic and defense,” Obama told reporters in a hastily-arranged White House press conference.

“It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal and frankly, if you look at the commentary out there, there are a lot of Republicans puzzled as to why it couldn’t get done.”

He said the American people were “fed up” with political posturing, and said he was willing “to sign an extension of the debt ceiling which takes us through 2013.”

The nation needed to do more, Obama added, though adding that he would accept a fallback option if that was the best deal lawmakers could strike.

That’s a fallback that would go beyond the already overly conciliatory and generous offer the President made.  This is not the first time this kabuki dance has taken place on the national stage, but it is strikingly naked.

Obama Says Gay Couples Deserve Rights, Just Not Right Now

Obama gingerly endorsed the rights of gay people, if they’d only wait a few more years or like a decade or two tops.  I’m pretty sure this is verbatim you guys:

With cat-like tread, President Obama praised New York state lawmakers who were debating landmark legislation to legalize gay love and Jesus (to be balanced). As expected the president stopped short of committing to supporting equal rights, choosing instead to say “We’ll totally come back to this in 4 to 20 years”.

The president’s views on same-sex marriage are a sore point with gay supporters and even hetero supporters who’ve otherwise warmed to Obama. The president has said his views are “evolving,” but he needs more time to reconcile respect for human rights and equality with his desire to court religious voters who hate him for being black.

As Obama spoke at a Manhattan fundraiser for the people whose rights he needs time to recognize, a handful of pro-gay marriage protesters shouted out “marriage!”.  And Obama said, “I heard you guys, I just don’t want to take a risky stand.  On anything really.  Haven’t you people caught on yet?  I don’t like risk.  It makes me break out.”.  The president never directly mentioned gay marriage instead choosing more neutral terms like “homo-erotic unions” and “marriages that make baby Jesus cry”.

“I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country,” the president said “just not for a few years.”.

Obama said progress will be slower than some people want, but he added that he was confident that there will be a day “when every single American, gay or straight or lesbian or bisexual or transgender, is free to live and love as they see fit.  I just don’t no if I think every single American ought to be free to live and love as they see fit yet.  My views on that are still evolving.”

“Traditionally marriage has been decided by the states and right now I understand there’s a little debate going on here in New York,” he said to laughter. New York’s lawmakers, he said, are “doing exactly what democracies are supposed to do.  In fact I’ve long been a supporter of the states rights”

Debate on the measure continued into the night at the statehouse, and the outcome was uncertain.

Obama said there were those who shouted at him at events about other causes of the gay community, such as the need for anti-hate crimes legislation and for the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ban on openly gay military service, and both of those have since been achieved.  “So keep shouting, eventually I’ll cave.  In the meantime I’m going to go meet with Republicans and pretend its possible to address our deadly budget issues and still give rich people the massive tax cuts they’ve come to expect.”

Obama also has won favor by instructing the Justice Department to stop defending in court a law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, after spending the start of his presidency instructing them to defend that same law.

Obama told of receiving a letter last year from a teenager in a small town. He said the boy was a senior in high school who was gay and was afraid to come out. The boy wondered to the president why gays shouldn’t be equal like everyone else.  The president wrote back “Look, I’ve got to get elected in 2012, and I’ve already sold out women’s rights for my tepid health care law, so now its time for the gay community to take one for the team.  You guys can die for your country now, you just can’t get married or adopt or whatever.”

“So, yes, we have more work to do,” Obama said. “Yes, we have more progress to make. Yes, I expect continued impatience with me on occasion.  Or every day.  I don’t care.  I’m the boss.”

(note: heavily edited for searing political impact!)

How Obama is Working Hard for President Huckabee or Romney

When President Obama was elected he had several key things going for him:

  1. He wasn’t the Republican heir to George W Bush
  2. He represented a party that stood for economic issues near and dear to the vast majority of the voting public
  3. He promised to cut down on lobbying and corruption
  4. He was a brilliant public speaker
  5. He promised to fight bipartisan bickering and give us a functioning government

Based on the combination of his anti-lobbying anti-partisan approach, he framed himself successfully as a new kind of politician.  He was able to excite his party base with his oratory, his youthful energy, and the fact that he wasn’t George W Bush in a nation decidedly sick of the man.  He didn’t just win, Obama enjoyed a telling victory in 2008.

Let’s look at those same points now.

Obama isn’t the Republican heir to George W Bush

Still true, but only because he has become the Democratic heir to George W Bush, and Dick Cheney (Glenn Greenwald @ Salon):

But the crux of Bush/Cheney radicalism — the mindset and policies that caused much of the controversy — continues and has even been strengthened.  Gen. Hayden put it best, as quoted by The Washington Times:

“You’ve got state secrets, targeted killings, indefinite detention, renditions, the opposition to extending the right of habeas corpus to prisoners at Bagram [in Afghanistan],” Mr. Hayden said, listing the continuities. “And although it is slightly different, Obama has been as aggressive as President Bush in defending prerogatives about who he has to inform in Congress for executive covert action.”

And that list, impressive though it is, doesn’t even include the due-process-free assassination hit lists of American citizens, the sweeping executive power and secrecy theories used to justify it, the multi-tiered, “state-always-wins” justice system the Obama DOJ concocted for detainees, the vastly more aggressive war on whistleblowers and press freedoms, or the new presidential immunity doctrines his DOJ has invented.  Critically, this continuity extends beyond specific policies into the underlying sloganeering mentality in which they’re based:  we’re in a Global War; the whole Earth is the Battlefield; the Terrorists want to kill us because they’re intrinsically Evil (not in reaction to anything we do); we’re justified in doing anything and everything to eradicate Them; the President’s overarching obligation (contrary to his Constitutional oath) is to keep us Safe; this should all be kept secret from us; we can’t be bothered with obsolete dogma like Due Process and Warrants, etc. etc.

He’s extended the same Bush Tax cuts he campaigned against.  In fact his rush to compromise and fiscal conservatism masquerading as bipartisan centrism has been so severe that it has crushed the second key thing he had going for him.

Obama represents a party that defends the economic interests of working people

With revenue cut and war/terror spending increasing, there was bound to be a collision.  Couple that with the President’s obsessive need to appear as the bi-partisan philosopher-king, and you get negotiation tactics so inviting to the opposition it makes John Boehner look like a teary Jack Donaghy.

The quaint term “austerity measures” doesn’t capture the human cost of paying for tax cuts and tax evasions for wealthy individuals and large corporations.  Those cuts are already being felt, and will be even more severe when 2012 rolls around.  They aren’t just budget cuts, they are deep cuts into the voting base for Democrats across the country, and those cuts are going to badly injure Obama’s re-election chances.  (John Amato @ Crooks and Liars):

Every poll shows quite clearly that even Republican voters do not want a cut in these benefits.

If Sperling’s argument is about reforming Social Security and Medicare without taking away from them, then OK, but that’s not what I’m reading here. Do these creatures only listen to Villager gasbags who want working-class Americans to be the only people to “share” the sacrifice and suffer in America after Wall Streeters and their partners caused the Great Recession?

Obama is casting himself as the friend of the wealthy and the enemy of the working class at a time he needs to do the opposite.  His hands are tied by his bipartisan image at a time he desperately needs to break free.  But you get the sense he likes it that way.  Obama has become the willing prisoner of a small aspect of his election campaign – unable and unwilling to break free and become true to what he ran for.  This is especially clear when one considers lobbying.

Obama promised to cut down the influence of lobbyists and K-Street

Obama has

All of this casts his much touted ethics reform in such a harsh light the reform isn’t even visible to the voting public anymore.

Where does this leave us?

Obama is still fighting the supposedly good fight on being bipartisan.  As Digby has observed over and over, this is a one sided battle.  The Republicans – down to their votes – don’t give a damn about being bipartisan and compromising.  They care about winning.  That imbalance will surely lead to the Democrats losing.  Obama is still an amazing public speaker but with the way he’s been running things you have to ask – who is going to go hear him speak?

Regardless of whether the religious right, the corporations, or the tea party are able to exert enough influence to secure the Republican nomination in 2012 one thing is clear.  If Obama doesn’t change course they will secure more than just the primary.

Interrogation Buddies: Cheney, Bush and … Obama?

Well this is a nasty surprise.  Cheney apparently likes parts of Obama’s record:

“Cheney has kind of backed away lately, largely because Obama has met Bush and praised him when it comes to things like Afghanistan, the use of drones and interrogation,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political scientist at the University of Texas.

Cheney and Bush’s record on interrogation was illegal, brutal, and pro-torture.  For Obama to be even remotely on the same page as these men is a truly saddening day for human rights.  It also offers a starker view of a president in danger of permanently alienating anyone in the Democratic party to the left of the Clintons.

Obama to Get Even Cozier With Corporations

Via Digby the incredibly disheartening news that all signs point to Obama  pushing further towards the right as he approaches 2012:

the White House will be strongly focused on better relationships with business over the next two years to ease the community’s fears about regulations.

He’s off to a great start, tapping model corporate citizen JP Morgan of “Yes we scammed the troops” fame for his new chief of staff.

Obama: Campaign Promises vs Actions

Clarence Jones has a thoughtful piece over at the Huffington Post on whether Obama has lived up to his campaign promises.  My friend Marco asked me to take a look at it, and a rather long email turned into this post.

The article itself suggests Obama’s achievements with the stimulus, health care reform, and DADT merit recognition.  Surely even a baby step in the right deserves acknowledgement, but within the bigger picture.  A baby step is amazing because for a baby its a big deal.  Obama campaigned successfully as a bit more than a political infant – in fact he had to to counter his relative inexperience.

In fact Obama campaigned not just as an experienced and effective politician, but as a different kind of politician.  One who was not beholden to special interests and lobbyists.  A pro-transparency Presidency.  In addition to specific policy goals like the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Health Care Reform, Obama brought an army of young progressives into the political arena.  Much of that leading edge that pushed Obama into office was made up of enthusiastic hard working young people – who were able to mount a ground game of get out the vote in states that had previously never been “competitive”.

That enthusiasm is now dead – with grave implications for Obama’s 2012 run.

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