Obama’s March to the Middle

For all the hype that followed the conclusion of the first budget battle of the Congress of Dunces, you would have thought the 1,000 year peace had been declared.
Barack Obama called it a “historic moment” and Hairy Reed said “The whole world is watching.”

Are you kidding? The whole world? Hosne Mubarak was glued to Al Jezera’s wall to wall coverage, I am sure. So were the Yemeni rebels and Pakistani Talliwacks. Everyone was watching Barack Obama cave to the GOOP again?

If ever there was a classic example of the Obama negotiating style, this little skirmish is it. The GOOP starts out at $33 million. Obama says “OK I will agree to $33 million.” The GOOP says “how about $60 million? And let’s close some family planning clinics and stop paying unemployment insurance. (The quicker they do that the quicker they can find an unemployed machinist to clean their gutters for minimum wage.) Had it not been for a couple of tough minded women in the Senate, the cuts would have gone to $60 billion and more. Historic moment? Yeah. A couple of women senators turned back the tide of Know Nothings until the next big budget battle, probably coming up in the spring when the debt ceiling has to be raised. Does Obama have a plan for that?

The New York Times has a convenient explanation for all this… today’s front page declares that The President is taking a “measured path” to the middle. I thought that’s where he started. Remember Rick Warren’s sudden and unhappy appearance at the Inaugural? Remember how he never really got around to any of those outrageous liberal promises he made before the election… stuff like single payer health insurance, closing Guantanamo, more open government? If he is plotting a course to the middle, he is going to have to start moving left very soon.

David Plouffe, Obama’s adviser, tells us we need to suck it up and “consume the details of this.” Plouffe says “There are going to be plenty of times when you won’t be able to reach common ground and you have to be in a pugilistic mode, but you can’t view any kind of agreement with the other side as weakness.”

So when has Obama been in a pugilistic mode? Certainly not when he conceded the tax cuts for the rich without ever bothering to make a case about the obvious value of enhancing revenues from an available and unstrained source. And how about the time he threw single payer under the bus the first time they tried to cross the street together?

And how pugilistic is he going to be about the coming battles. How much Social Security will he give away? How many poor people will lose health care coverage when the GOOP gets to cutting the budget? How long will it take him to cave on vouchers for Medicare? I sure would love to think that the Barack Obama I worked hard to elect is going to emerge from the beltway morass and actually promote and defend one of these issues that are of crucial importance to the future of the nation.

I will believe it when I see it. At this point, I may need to see it twice.

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