Barack Obama wants to be President for Life. To do that he must show himself a voice of reason against a stubborn foe. But he threw away John Boehner’s cowardly deal on the fiscal cliff. When he did that he showed himself, not reasonable, but vindictive and spiteful. This will not win him the friends he needs, nor help the economy, either.
The fiscal cliff deal
John Boehner released only sketchy details of his fiscal cliff deal to the public. He offered $800 billion in new revenues, mainly from disallowing most Schedule A deductions by those making more than a certain amount every year. Most conservatives correctly bristled at that. By any method, it is still a bill of attainder against those whose only crime is success.
But Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform played a cagey game. He refused to blame John Boehner for offering a bad deal on the fiscal cliff. He didn’t even accuse him of betraying small-government ideas. He didsay some Republicans have a “fantasy” that Barack Obama will talk reasonably now that he’s won his last election. (His last? More on that below.) Norquist could have said Republicans have a fantasy that Obama cares about the fiscal cliff. Out loud, Norquist blamed Obama without reservation. Why? Because Obama threw out the fiscal cliff deal. Obama then told Bloomberg TV he would take no deal that did not raise tax rates on those he calls “rich.”
That’s a vindictive thing to say. It says,
I will punish you for succeeding. If you succeeded, you stole from those who “failed.”
If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that! Somebody else made that happen!
To show just how vindictive Obama is, Norquist doesn’t even blame those Republicans ready to renege on the “no new taxes” pledge they signed with him:
I would worry except that the White House has been so intransigent that it hasn’t even tempted any Republicans to think about crossing that line.
Obama Gathers the Wolf Pack
Barack Obama, in multicolored shadow, imitating Lenin or Stalin. Artist unknown.
Instead, Obama, ever the alpha dog, summoned the wolf pack to the White House last night. Threedifferentreporters picked up on Twitter “tweets” from Jen Bendary of The Huffington Post. She stood outside the White House and watched the wolves go in. Example:
So… in the last hour, I watched Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpton and Lawrence O’Donnell all walk into the West Wing. MSNBC love fest?
In fact nothing but the cream at MSNBC visited the White House last night.
Recall that democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for dinner. Obama merely summoned his pack and gave them direct marching orders.
But this shows that Obama moved too soon. That seems to be his habit. (CNAV’s friend The Eagle said that two years ago.) Any President for Life lives to show his vindictive side. But the time to do that is after you have made your power solid and firm, not before! Obama showed his vindictive side now, and is ready to “go over the fiscal cliff” to punish those who will never support him.
Obama knows he’s blown the gaffe. To Bloomberg TV only this morning, he whined,
[I'm not] being stubborn!…It’s a matter of math!
No, Mr. Obama. Your math doesn’t add up. Everybody knows that. If you jack up those tax rates, people will either flee this country or else buy gold and silver and bury that in their back yards. It’s that simple.
Obama only made it worse for himself by playing up what the “fiscal cliff” would do to the economy. If he now says,
Better that than let those evil rich misers get off Scot-free!
or something like that, then whom does he think the American people will blame? And who believes, anyway, that he would raise taxes only on “the other guys”? Or that Obama will repair the economy?
Sixteen years ago, Bill Clinton won re-election after cagily maneuvering Republicans into non-distinction. He never had to say it out loud, but George Wallace said it for him, twenty-eight years earlier:
There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the two parties.
And that’s how Obama won re-election this time. Not because, as he says, the American people are a gigantic pack of wolves waiting to sink their teeth into “the rich,” whoever they are. Rather, enough conservatives, and “Patriots,” believed George Wallace. (They even spelled Mitt Romney’s name with a second, initial O.) John Boehner almost vindicated those modern “Patriots” with his white-flag counter-offer. By throwing that in Boehner’s face, Obama once again distinguished the two parties in a way he didn’t have to, and can’t afford to.
Why can’t he afford that now? Because he needs solid two-thirds majorities of the full membership of the House and Senate, and equally solid majorities in three-fourths of the State legislatures, to change the Constitution to let him run again in 2016. If he keeps showing his vindictive side, he won’t get them.