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GOP leaders trot out same ‘our way or no way’
as Obama White House signals new toughness



Victory hug, election night 2012

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President Obama’s decisive re-election victory Tuesday — 303 electoral votes to Mitt Romney’s 206, plus a definite popular-vote majority — clearly indicates a mandate to continue grappling with the country’s problems on his terms.

A clear mandate to most, perhaps, but not to congressional Republicans, even though in aggregate their House and Senate candidates won fewer votes than Democrats and lost several seats.

That disconnect about what the election outcome means seems likely to pit Republicans’ same ol’, same ol’ against a president now more intent on producing results than peace and light in Washington, D.C.

No sooner had the dust cleared — no doubt with a legion of chagrined millionaire and billionaire GOP sugar daddies kicking themselves in the background — than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, started making noises about their requirements for a budget and deficit-reduction deal.

Far from changing their tune following defeat of their no-cooperation strategy to make Obama a one-term president, Beavis and Butthead’s Republican analogs chimed in with an old refrain. From McConnell’s version:

McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the President’s first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do together with a Congress that restored balance to Washington after two years of one-party control. Now it’s time for the President to propose solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely-divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office.

To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way. That begins by proposing a way for both parties to work together in avoiding the ‘fiscal cliff’ without harming a weak and fragile economy, and when that is behind us work with us to reform the tax code and our broken entitlement system.

Translation: First, to get us to deal with him at all, Obama must drop his silly idea of raising taxes on the rich (us and our benefactors) and settle for closing a few (purposely unspecified) loopholes (of our choosing). Second, to get us to actually vote for this compromise, Obama must let us have our way with entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, food stamps and extended jobless benefits (bye-bye social safety net).

In other words, Republican congressional leaders expect Obama to adopt the unacceptable, nonsensical plan their failed presidential candidate ran on.

Really!

These same Republican leaders got by with their “our way or no way” approach the first two and a half years of Obama’s presidency, thanks to his strong desire to bridge the partisan divide. However, the more accommodating Obama was, the more recalcitrant McConnell and Boehner became. But after Republicans held raising the debt ceiling hostage in the summer of 2011, causing the first credit rating downgrade in U.S. history, Obama had enough.

So now, with re-election political capital in hand, things are different. If this AP story is an accurate indication, Obama has traded in his olive branches for a small carrot and a sharp stick.

Obama adviser David Axelrod warned Republican leaders to take lessons from Tuesday’s vote. The president won after pledging to raise taxes on American households earning more than $250,000 a year “and was re-elected in a significant way,” Axelrod told MSNBC Thursday morning.

“Hopefully people will read those results and read them as a vote for cooperation and will come to the table,” Axelrod said. “And obviously everyone’s going to have to come with an open mind to these discussions. But if the attitude is that nothing happened on Tuesday, that would be unfortunate.”

He noted that conservative Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock in Indiana dismissed the value of compromise and instead said Democrats should join the GOP. “And I note that he’s not on his way to the United States Senate,” Axelrod said. Mourdock lost to Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly.

You may recall that after winning his party’s nomination last spring, Mourdock said he didn’t get into politics to compromise, that his idea of the way to get somewhere is for Democrats to come around to his way of thinking — as candid an expression of Republican politicians’ attitude over the past 35 years as we’ve ever heard.

President Obama has a large constituency of people who believe he’s doing a good job in adverse economic and political circumstances. They stood by him during trying days in his first term. They accepted, with varying degrees of discomfort, some of his decisions that were out of step with what he led them to believe in 2008. They came through for him in the 2012 election.

Through it all, Obama suffered declines in supporter enthusiasm only when he appeared too willing to give in to Republican belligerence.

The stakes going forward are monumental. Appeasement only encourages Republican bullying and yet more-outrageous demands.

Obama isn’t one to face down opponents or take it to the people to pressure Republicans into doing the right thing. His preference has always been polite, serious discussion leading to reasonable compromise.

As admirable as Obama’s instincts and preferences are, he should remember he didn’t win election and re-election by talking softly and waving a white flag.

Getting a fair, balanced budget and deficit-reduction deal that won’t throw economic recovery into reverse, lay waste to programs millions of nonwealthy Americans depend on and leave the president looking like a patsy means he must win an even tougher fight.

If Obama is fired up and ready to go all out, we’re confident he can, and will, prevail again. And again, the people will be with him.

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11 Comments

  1. Tom Harper says:

    Good post. Obama has political capital; Congressional Republicans don’t. If they continue with their obstruction and paralysis, they’ll get a shellacking in the 2014 mid-term elections and Democrats will take back the House.

  2. Octopus says:

    Despite all attempts by the far right to vilify liberals, never will I hesitate to express my political affiliation in public. Especially when partisans are quick to violate my boundaries and get in my face with invective and a bad attitude. I refuse to hide or disguise my core values and cower before them.

    Furthermore, I will not hesitate to respond in kind. I ink them in cafes and restaurants, ink them on the sidewalk, ink them in shopping malls and stores, and ink them with a vengeance when they come knocking at my front door. No, I refuse to be a shy and retiring cephalopod.

    Their Birther conspiracy theories enrage me – notwithstanding their pandering and slandering, their defamations and demagoguery, their ignoble and self-serving lies, their denials, posturing, projections, bullying and … VERBAL ABUSE.

    In attempting to delude the public, they render themselves delusional. These “my-way-or-the-highway” neo-fascists do not respect the democratic process, the will of the people, the outcome of elections, the U.S. Constitution, our system of government … even their own precious goddamn religion!!! Hypocrites!!!

    Yet again, even after a clear victory just days ago, they are already plotting more filibustering, more stalemates, more legislative gridlock, and more hostage-taking – even if they tank the economy and cause millions to suffer.

    No! Why hold back! In the words of Wednesday Addams, “Be afraid, be very afraid.” That is exactly where I want them!

  3. Jolly Roger says:

    Reid says that the filibuster will be reformed. I say that he won’t go far enough. I’d make those nasty bastards take the floor, and do their thing for the whole country to see. No more of this whispered “no” BS from your seat.

  4. Shaw Kenawe says:

    Excellent post. We the people have to keep the pressure on by letting the president know we’re behind him on his policies. The obstructionists in the House cannot be allowed to impede Mr. Obama’s second term. We must remind them that the people have spoken and it’s time for them to work with the president.

    We have to keep what happened on Tuesday in front of their noses.

  5. Jack Jodell says:

    These crazy Republicans are bluffing. They’re talking tough and refusing to give in to the very idea that they badly lost another election, but in reality, they are a divided, crippled bunch who will crumble like a cracker once we get up to the dreaded fiscal cliff. The Grover Norquist/Rush Limbaugh/Tea Party wing of mean-spirited, uncaring and uncompromising reactionaries will be abandoned by more common-sensical pragmatists, and that will spell the end of the GOP as a national force. For me, it won’t come a minute too soon!.

  6. Dave Dubya says:

    Republican congressional leaders expect Obama to adopt the unacceptable, nonsensical plan their failed presidential candidate ran on.

    There it is, in all it’s authoritarian absurdity.

    McConnell lied, “To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way.”

    He will never meet Obama halfway. He has no moderate or compromising bone in his body.

    It’s time for Reid to lead, force them to filibuster, or better yet, change the Senate rules. It’s time to do what needs to be done, and not cower in the face of the next election.

  7. S.W. Anderson says:

    Tom, Democrats should focus like a laser on taking control of the House two years hence. President Obama can and should help with that, in part by very forcefully calling out House Republicans when they obstruct and in part by going out to campaign for 2014 House candidates.

    Octopus, that’s the spirit: “I’m a liberal, you should be too and here’s why . . .” The bully pulpit is there to be used by determined presidents. I hope Obama will use it more.

    J.R., a senator should be able to filibuster for up to 72 hours, but only by personally holding the floor except for periodic food and restroom breaks. During breaks, a stand in must hold the floor, speaking. When the time’s up, no senator should be able to filibuster for 72 hours, so business can proceed. Secondly, I think no senator should be able to put a hold on a presidential appointment. Any opposed to an appointment can request time for a floor speech to make a case against the appointment and/or participate in debate prior to the vote.

    Shaw, we should let Obama know we’re behind him. But we, and especially he, should take it to the people when Republicans simply obstruct. Really put the heat on them to the point where, as Octopus said, they’re afraid of what might happen to them in the next election.

    Jack, I like your scenario but don’t think it will be that easy. I want to see Obama, congressional Democrats and Democrats in their districts apply enough pressure to convince many Republicans they have more to fear than Grover Norquist and maybe having a primary opponent.

    Dave, today’s halfway is so far to the right that McConnell’s statement would be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. Again, McConnell’s idea of compromise is for the president to adopt Romney’s cockamamie plan.

    There used to be a tradition that presidents and other high-profile opposing-party members wouldn’t go into a Senate leader’s state to campaign against him. Republican blew that away to get even with Tom Daschle after Jim Jeffords bolted the GOP in 2001 and caucused with Dems, giving Dems the majority. If McConnell is still minority leader in 2014, Obama, or at least Joe Biden, should barnstorm Kentucky on behalf of whoever the Democratic Senate candidate is. The Democratic Party should put a lot of money into the effort as well.

  8. Excellent article and equally good comments. I didn’t expect any changes from the GOP. They have their heads so far up their collective asses they are simply blind to any reality whatsoever. But it’s costing them, I think. Boehner put something up on his FB page the other day about why raising taxes would be bad (zzzz) and he got slammed pretty darn hard. We the people are fed up with this crap.

    As far as “filiblustering”, it’s my understanding that the person speaking can talk about anything under the sun — even read the phone book. If this is true, shouldn’t they be forced to stay on topic?

    1. S.W. Anderson says:

      L.P., I doubt senators will ever change their rules to require that a senator speak only on a particular topic in what amounts to a floor speech. What a filibustering senator says probably doesn’t amount to a hill of beans after the first half hour or hour. If he/she hasn’t made a compelling case by then, they won’t. A filibuster isn’t so much about convincing others as it is about delaying or blocking something.

  9. Infidel753 says:

    He needs to stay tough, and the Republicans need to learn to grasp the concept of losing an election. Even in the House they kept their majority only because of gerrymandering.

    Let all the Bush tax cuts expire, then propose a new cut for the lower 90% and dare the Republicans to block it. The election showed that a majority knows what’s going on and isn’t fooled by Republican spin.

    1. S.W. Anderson says:

      I hold out hope Obama will stay tough. Even if some Republicans accept the reality of their situation, maybe even how and why they got there, there’s a horde of movement conservatives and tea party cranks who can’t or won’t. And behind them, there are political terrorists like Norquist, professional hucksters like Limbaugh and behind-the-scenes string pullers like the Koch brothers. They all stand ready to punish those who step out of line. So, where congressional Republicans are concerned, a lot may depend on who they fear most, those in their own ranks who don’t want compromise or a voting public that does.

      BTW, a bill to keep the Bush tax cuts for the middle class has already passed the Senate and awaits action in the House.