Thursday, October 10, 2013

"Yes We Can" is Now "No I Won't"

President Obama ran a brilliant Presidential Campaign in 2008. He promised “Hope and Change” with “Yes, we can.” His soaring rhetoric offered Americans a post-racial, post-partisan Presidency. Americans saw what they wanted after 16 years of bitter, partisan politics in the Clinton and Bush Administrations. It was simply campaign smoke and mirrors like President George H. W. Bush’s “No new taxes” pledge, which he never meant to keep. President Elect Obama said five days before his inauguration that he would fundamentally transform America. That was no surprise to many of us. The surprise was his bitter partisanship. His view of compromise appeared early with the Stimulus Bill and ObamaCare. It is a version of the fabled Soviet School of Negotiation: “What’s mine is mine; what’s yours we’ll negotiate.” His current posture to Republicans is simple: “Give me what I want now, and then we’ll negotiate later.” Republicans do not trust the President. Nor should he expect Republicans to give him wants he wishes by calling them radical extortionists and hostage takers seeking ransom. The rhetoric may play well with his base, but it is not a winning negotiation strategy. The time to lead, not to campaign, is now. The bitter partisanship is on view for all Americans to see. Maybe we are witnessing a century later two antagonists so blind to reality that they drift into World War I, but I doubt it. The President is guided by his past and false political assumptions. Part of the President’s problem is his easy climb up the political ladder. Opponents fell by the wayside as he glided into his United States Senate seat. He never learned one of the fundamental rules of life: “Be nice to those you pass on the way up; you may see them again on the way down.” Part of the posturing though is sheer political calculus. He believes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Democrats, and the Republicans all believe that the Democrats won and the Republicans lost the 1995 Government Shutdown led by the Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The polls are different this time. The Democrats held a 23% lead in the polls during the shutdown battle 18 years ago. They’re roughly even today with voters showing disdain for Democrats and the President as well as Republicans. The prevailing view is “A plague on all your houses.” The President’s unfavorability ratings greatly exceed his approval numbers. His lack of leadership, shown by Syria and the budget battles has caught up to him. The Republicans’ initial budget bill defunded ObamaCare. That was going nowhere and everyone knew it. It was an opening gambit. The Democratic Senate would reject it, and then counter offer. Yet, the Democrats did not counter offer. They wanted a shutdown and tendered the House Republicans an offer they could not accept – a clean, no-strings attached budget. The Senate, which has not passed a budget in 5 years, wants a “Clean Continuing Resolution.” Senate Majority Leader followed up by making it clear that the Senate would either reject or refuse to consider any limited budget bills. Thus, when the House passed a bill to fund the National Institutes of Health (NIH) after the Democrats accused the Republicans of cutting off funding to cancer stricken children, Harry Reid was asked “Why wouldn’t he want to help one child with cancer if he could?” The Majority Leader’s response was “Why would we want to do that?” The media would have crucified a Republican for a statement like that. The President is rolling the dice on trying to break the Republican Party in the budget battles so that the GOP won’t pose a problem for him in the remainder of his second term. Short of that, if the Republicans, or a significant number of them cave, then an internecine battle will erupt within the Republicans such that the Tea Party will attempt to take out in the primaries any Republicans who sided with the Democrats. The possible victims of any primary challenge could include Speaker Boehner. A third aim is to demoralize Republicans such that they will have a low turnout in 2014. He knows Republicans turn out in larger numbers in the midterm elections than Democrats. Dispirited Republicans might not vote, just as millions stayed at home in 2012, thereby giving Democrats an advantage in 2014. It’s all politics to the President and the Senate Majority Leader. Let the people feel the pain and they will take it out on Republicans. That is the playbook. Thus, close the open World War II Memorial to veterans, but open the closed National Mall to thousands of demonstrators seeking immigration reform. Death benefits were cut off to the survivors of soldiers killed in action, but $445 million was transferred to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The President earlier closed the White House, the house of the American people, to tourists during sequestration, but repeatedly opens the doors to lobbyists and celebrities. These are political acts, not acts of statesmanship. Perhaps he is also a spoiled narcissist who cannot tolerate criticism or opposition. The Hope and Change candidate has become a petulant “No I won’t” President.

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