Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Obama press conference: It’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers

Obama held a press conference today, mostly to attack those who criticize his surrender on taxes.

Remember Jon Lovitz as Michael Dukakis in an SNL parody of the Bush-Dukakis debate, saying, “I can’t believe I’m losing to this guy”? I’m guessing every time Hillary Clinton sees Barack Obama speak about the Republicans, she wonders how she could possibly have lost to him. I know McCain does.

WHAT HIS NUMBER ONE PRIORITY IS: “My number one priority is to do what’s right for the American people, for jobs, and for economic growth.” And how’s that going?

REALLY? “This is real money for real people that will make a real difference in the lives of the folks who sent us here.”

WHAT SOME WOULD HAVE PREFERRED: “Now, I know there are some who would have preferred a protracted political fight, even if it had meant higher taxes for all Americans, even if it had meant an end to unemployment insurance for those who are desperately looking for work.” The assumption here is that he would have lost the fight. It’s pretty much always Obama’s working assumption that he will lose any fight. And then, funnily enough, he does.

WHAT HE’S SYMPATHETIC TO: “And I understand the desire for a fight. I’m sympathetic to that.” If by sympathetic, you mean condescending.

WELL THAT CAN’T BE TRUE, BECAUSE YOU JUST AGREED TO EXTEND THEM: “I’m as opposed to the high-end tax cuts today as I’ve been for years.”

ALSO IN THE SHORT RUN. YOU KNOW, NOW. “In the long run, we simply can’t afford them.”

THAT MUST HAVE THE REPUBLICANS TREMBLING: “And when they expire in two years, I will fight to end them”.

AND REPUBLICANS’ RESPONSIBILITY IS TO PREVENT THAT. EVIDENTLY. “And my responsibility as President is to do what’s right for the American people.”

HE HAS AN OPTION! YAY! “Now, I have an option, which is to say, you know what, I’m going to keep fighting a political fight, which I can’t win in the Senate”. Well, not with an attitude like that, mister.

“Or alternatively, what I can do is I can say that I am going to stick to my position that those folks get relief, that people get help for unemployment insurance. And I will continue to fight before the American people to make the point that the Republican position is wrong.” Oo, he’ll fight. Well, fight to make a point. Which isn’t so much fighting, in the strict sense of the term, as meekly objecting.

But the reason he can’t fight, is that there would be consequences for people. Er, what did he think running a country was about? “Now, if there was not collateral damage, if this was just a matter of my politics or being able to persuade the American people to my side, then I would just stick to my guns, because the fact of the matter is the American people already agree with me.”

And the reason he can’t win, is that the Republicans are, um, determined. “Well, let me say that on the Republican side, this is their holy grail, these tax cuts for the wealthy.”

“But the fact of the matter is, I haven’t persuaded the Republican Party. I haven’t persuaded Mitch McConnell and I haven’t persuaded John Boehner.” Dude, it isn’t about persuasion.

YOU KNOW WHAT ELSE IS TEMPTING? CHOCOLATE CAKE. “I think it’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage-takers, unless the hostage gets harmed. Then people will question the wisdom of that strategy. In this case, the hostage was the American people and I was not willing to see them get harmed.” So is the concern that the American people will get harmed, or that he’d be blamed for it rather than the hostage-takers?

WHAT HE COULD HAVE ENJOYED: “Now, I could have enjoyed the battle with Republicans over the next month or two, because as I said, the American people are on our side.” And yet, with an entire people, whose leader you are, behind you, you keep losing. Funny that.

WHAT WOULD HAVE BEEN UNACCEPTABLE: “if we had made a determination that the deal was a permanent tax break for high-income individuals in exchange for these short-term things that people need right now, that would have been unacceptable.” So we’ve got surrender on the instalment plan instead.

A VERY UNIQUE CIRCUMSTANCE: “Q: If I may follow, aren’t you telegraphing, though, a negotiating strategy of how the Republicans can beat you in negotiations all the way through the next year because they can just stick to their guns, stay united, be unwilling to budge -- to use your words -- and force you to capitulate? THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think so. And the reason is because this is a very unique circumstance. This is a situation in which tens of millions of people would be directly damaged and immediately damaged, and at a time when the economy is just about to recover.”

HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY: “And I will be happy to see the Republicans test whether or not I’m itching for a fight on a whole range of issues.”

WHAT HE SUSPECTS: “I suspect they will find I am.”

HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY: “I’m happy to have that battle. I’m happy to have that conversation. I just want to make sure that the American people aren’t harmed while we’re having that broader argument.”

HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY: “I am happy to be tested over the next several months about our ability to negotiate with Republicans.”

A SAFE PLACE: “Part of what I want to do is to essentially get the American people in a safe place so that we can then get the economy in a stable place. And then we’re going to have to have a broad-based discussion across the country about our priorities.” And how you’ll surrender them.

AND NOW IT’S EVEN LESS SO: “And that’s going to mean looking at the tax code and saying, what’s fair, what’s efficient. And I don’t think anybody thinks the tax code right now is fair or efficient.”

WHAT HE DOESN’T SEE: “And in that context, I don’t see how the Republicans win that argument. I don’t know how they’re going to be able to argue that extending permanently these high-end tax cuts is going to be good for our economy when, to offset them, we’d end up having to cut vital services for our kids, for our veterans, for our seniors.”

HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY: “But I’m happy to listen to their arguments.”

Oh dear muppety Odin, how does he continually fail to learn anything? It doesn’t fucking matter whether the Republicans “win that argument,” because it’s not an argument, and anyway you’ve said, several times in this press conference, that they’ve lost the argument, as shown by the polls. It’s not an intellectual discussion. To paraphrase Sean Connery, he brought a well-reasoned disquisition to a gun fight. And plans to keep doing so in the future. You’d think all the bullet holes in his policies would be enough of a fucking hint by now.

And by the way, my lame duck-droid governor, Mr. Schwarzenegger, has called a special session of the Legislature so that he can push yet again his proposal to end vision care for poor children. So fuck all Republicans, is what I’m saying.

On why he doesn’t think the R’s will hold raising the debt ceiling hostage: “But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.” Has he ever MET John Boehner? Does he not remember Newt Gingrich? Of course a Republican speaker of the House can stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.

What will be different when these temporary extensions end in two years? “we will have had two years to discuss the budget -- not in the abstract, but in concrete terms.” Oh good, more “discussion.” “And I think it becomes pretty clear, after you go through the budget line by line, that if in fact they want to pay for $700 billion worth of tax breaks to wealthy individuals, that that’s a lot of money and that the cuts -- corresponding cuts that would have to be made are very painful.” First, they don’t want to pay for the tax breaks. They don’t care about paying for the tax breaks. I thought we’d established that. Second, would the very painful cuts be to the wealthy? No? Then they don’t care. They do not fucking care.

And then he got down to really bitching about his critics on the left: “This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where we finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats had been fighting for for a hundred years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn’t get that would have affected maybe a couple of million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people, that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise.” Well, let’s see, first you said you wanted it included, and then when the other side objected, it wasn’t included. What’s your definition of compromise, if that isn’t compromise?

I DON’T KNOW, SEEMS TO WORK PRETTY DAMNED WELL FOR THE REPUBLICANS: “Now, if that’s the standard by which we are measuring success or core principles, then let’s face it, we will never get anything done.” As opposed to getting everything done the Republicans want done. “People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position...” I know I’m feeling terribly satisfied right now. “...and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are”. As opposed to your feeling sanctimonious about how pure your intentions are and how realistic you are.

Have you noticed how Obama is never so sanctimonious as when he’s castigating the left for being so sanctimonious?

“This country was founded on compromise.” Er, the American War of Semi-Independence? (Update: Rick Perlstein writes on his Facebook page, “Give me liberty or give me illness.” “Loosen my restraints somewhat or give me death.”) “I couldn’t go through the front door at this country’s founding. And if we were really thinking about ideal positions, we wouldn’t have a union.” Oh, I see, the compromise of slavery. That’s your standard for a really good deal, is it? I guess the unemployed should be happy the Republicans weren’t demanding a repeal of the 13th Amendment. Yet.

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