Profiles in Cravenness
There's an old saying, "Treason is a matter of timing." Same thing goes for statesmanship and patriotism, especially at the beginning of an election cycle.
Much has been made about Obama's "tough stance" on not caving in to the Republicans, especially the ones in the House who found themselves in the absurd position of saying "No" to Obama's stopgap payroll tax cut plan. Republicans saying "No" to tax cuts??? Say it ain't so, Joe McCarthy!
But here's how it really down on the seedier side of the aisle:
While Obama was posturing like the Lion King and publicly calling out the Republicans for what we already knew they are (racist refugees from the DSM IV), the House Republicans realized they'd painted themselves into a corner, Tea Party caucus or no Tea Party caucus. It was a lose-lose situation for the House Repukes, especially since the tax cut measure sailed through the Senate by a pretty wide bipartisan consensus.
So House Speaker John Boehner did what Boehner usually does when he saw his troops tip-toeing off into the sunset of the Great Experiment: Boehner waited until virtually everyone left for their home districts or the nearest golf course, put up the bill under "unanimous consent" (which he should've done in the beginning while everyone was still in town) so that any lone Tea Bagger could do the House's version of the filibuster and oppose it. Naturally, none of them did and Boenher got the bill passed without expending any political capital (or so he thought). When the president signed the bill into law on the 23rd, it was even billed as a Christmas present to the American people! Scrooge caved just like the story goes. Dickens couldn't have penned it better!
Even Alan Grayson, in his latest fundraising email, is hailing this as a great victory for President Obama and the Democratic Party, for standing tall like Bo Svenson or The Rock and just saying, "No!" to the House Republicans who were all too willing to shut the government down just so they themselves could say No to a Democratic President who wanted to extend tax cuts to middle class families for another two months. This, at the very least, enabled unemployed Americans to keep living considerably below the poverty line instead of at the very bottom of the graph.
But even Grayson's usually dead-on cynicism missed the point. Because given his track record these past three years, it's tough to imagine President Barack Chamberlain standing up to the Republican Party in any other but an election year. This is about the most far left Obama will ever allow himself to lean even as the 2012 election year looms closer. Insisting that the House GOP pass a pitifully stopgap measure that will last only until the end of February when the 113th Congress convenes is hardly what a shrewd and perspicacious political observer would call "courageous."
We'll see if this victory will embolden the President to continue taking a firm stand against the congressional GOP just as Obama's every appeasement has emboldened the right side of the aisle to ask for more and more. It was a stalemate in which there were no real winners. The Democrats squeezed a two month payroll tax break out of the Republicans and the Republicans can always say to their lunatic fringe (and they will) that they played ball with the Commie Muslim Kenyan just long enough to keep the money spigots on until Congress reconvenes, see how much we love you out of work folks?
It's still possible that Obama will continue to eyeball the GOP. But even if he does throughout 2012, how do we know that this so-called populist position isn't just basic election year political gamesmanship? And how do we know the GOP won't pull their same old bullshit, with the same old results, when the fight begins over a longer payroll tax cut that will put more of their political capital on the line?