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Barack Obama

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

Victory hug, election night 2012


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:


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.


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.


Well-prepared with fresh lies
Romney wins debate with Obama

No voltage sign

Imagine the confrontation of a seasoned diplomat vs. a Marine Corps general, the former accustomed to conversation and negotiation, the latter’s attitude one of “Get out of my way or be prepared to wear my footprint on your face,” and you get the tone and tenor of last night’s first debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

To fully appreciate the event, though, you’d have to imagine a president who had failed to get a good night’s sleep and hadn’t had a cup of coffee since 9 a.m., and a raring-to-go bundle of nervous energy with a few fresh lies in his repertoire.

In short, those of us rooting for Obama came away disappointed, while Romney’s supporters were overjoyed at the first sign of things looking up for them in months.

Pundits, tweeters and those responding to instant polls immediately panned Obama’s performance as flat, weak and even ambivalent. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews went ballistic, his mind blown at how Obama had passed up one chance after another to call Romney out for misstating facts long ago debunked by third parties. Zingers? Forget that. Pop psychoanalysis was easy to find in the post mortems, some tagging Obama with feeling he shouldn’t have to be there to defend his serious and overall good work of governing against a crass wannabe who changes positions on serious matters more often than most people change their socks.

Our take on Obama’s lack of combativeness is that by nature he’s not that way. He is a well-informed, thoughtful, reasonable guy. He’s most comfortable around others who share his preference for honest discussion and bargaining in good faith to lying and street brawls.

Mitt Romney, by contrast, is a competitor and a predator. Getting what he wants is his top priority. Concern about what that might mean to and for others is way down his list. If a company must be gutted, saddled with debt and its workers’ jobs destroyed, it’s nothing personal, just what’s necessary for him to make another million, or ten. If he must risk being caught at lying repeatedly to win office, so be it. Hey, as the successful Bain venture capitalist honcho, he left a trail of trashed and debt-ruined companies behind. But to hear Romney tell it, he created 100,000 jobs in the U.S.

All that was on display last night, delivered with energy and, often, a smile. A well-done New York Times story details Romney’s mendacious tour de force, for those interested in the facts. Here’s a sample we find especially compelling.


Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama had doubled the deficit. That is not true. When Mr. Obama took office in January 2009, the Congressional Budget Office had already projected that the deficit for fiscal year 2009, which ended Sept. 30 of that year, would be $1.2 trillion. (It ended up as $1.4 trillion.) For fiscal year 2012, which ended last week, the deficit is expected to be $1.1 trillion — just under the level in the year he was inaugurated. Measured as a share of the economy, as economists prefer, the deficit has declined more significantly — from 10.1 percent of the economy’s total output in 2009 to 7.3 percent for 2012.


Romney also falsely denied his plan would cut taxes by 20 percent and that his plan includes $5 trillion in spending cuts. Ample videos exist of Romney saying the exact opposite. In fact, Romney put up a steady barrage of lies, distortions and insulting innuendo.

Romney then capped his lying-like-a-champ performance by chastising the president for trying to have his own facts and making his own sons out to be young practitioners of the Big Lie Technique.

Gosh, we wonder where Romney’s sons learned The Big Lie Technique.

But never mind, because a thousand shallow media minds, amplified by Romney’s legion of liars and spinners, are made up today: dishonest style trumps honest, if uninspiring, substance. So, they’re naming Romney the clear winner.


The moderator who didn’t: We won’t belabor what a poor job PBS’ Jim Lehrer did as moderator. We will just say that having served as moderator for a number of past presidential debates, Lehrer clearly signed on for one too many. It should be his last.