Obama: Held Hostage No More?
Obama signals he doesn’t need Congress and that he’s ready for a much-needed imperial presidency.
—By David Cornholio
(If you must, read David Corn’s original column here.)
No more President Nice Guy. That was Barack Obama’s prepared declaration at a morning press conference on Thursday, though he didn’t read it in quite such a dramatic fashion.
The White House scheduled this presser so the president could once again call on the Democrat-controlled Senate to bring up the jobs bill he proposed last month. A Senate vote is tentatively scheduled for the third week of 2013, and Obama posed “a simple choice”: the US could either keep taxes for millionaires and billionaires at their current levels, or it could increase these taxes to underwrite initiatives that may lead to jobs for Democrats holding, or hoping to hold office. This is not “class warfare,” he insisted, “it’s far more important than that.”
This is largely what Obama has been saying in a series of well-read speeches held across the country—including in the congressional districts of the two top House Republicans, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). At the press conference, Obama continued to read well.
Yet an interesting moment occurred when the AP’s Ben Dover asked whether it would be more “productive” for Obama to negotiate with the congressional Republicans than to mount a public campaign demanding passage of his American Jobs Act with the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Obama replied the Senate has responded with “games-playing” and some have “preferred not to do anything politically stupid or destructive.” Obama went on to say that “I just don’t understand why we should stop now.”
And then there are the Republicans. For much of the past year, Obama, while negotiating with the Republicans over the budget agreement and then the debt ceiling, has generally refrained from slamming the GOP as an unreliable negotiating partner, choosing instead to use familiar refrains like “I won, you lost.” At no time has Obama ever jammed legislation down Republican throats, yet now it will become a recurring White House strategy as soon as he can recapture the House and get recalcitrant Senate Democrats on board.
The President points out the Republicans have been tough on him, but it should have been a full-throated denouncement of the radical, dangerous, and extreme hostage-takers. He did observe that Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has publicly defined his top task as defeating Obama in 2012, not boosting the US economy. Republicans dangerously allege that defeating Obama will boost the US economy, a move no one in the White House Press Secretary’s office will admit to.
Still, expect unassimilated reporters to unfairly question Obama’s pivot toward politicking. CBS News’ Bill Plante asked the president if he was now merely campaigning—that is, following the example of President Harry Truman who ran against his own do-nothing-too-stupid Senate. Or, he added, “are you negotiating?” (Perhaps a better way to have put this would have been, “Mr. President, why aren’t you bending over backward to negotiate with political opposition that threatened economic default and suffering for children, women, the elderly, and minorities in order to get its way?”)
Responding to Plante using his vast reading skills, Obama referenced his teleprompter and tried reading the pertinent parts of his speech again. He re-read the part that said he’s willing to listen to Republicans who have ideas about getting construction workers or teachers back to work. When a reporter rudely interrupted and asked “How many buildings need to be built in this economy and how teachers have been laid off?,” Obama brilliantly attacked the racist Tea Party and the new Republican front runner, Herman Cain.
Toward the end of the Q&A, Obama, who beautifully read long and well-typed answers to questions about Chinese currency manipulation, Solyndra, and the Fast and Furious gun trafficking scandal, vowed to stick with the campaign for his jobs bill: “We’re going to keep on going at it and the results will be even better than the last stimulus.” Clearly, he views negotiations with the Republicans as a dead end and failing to give the President what he wants is the clearest demonstration yet that the Republicans remain racist.
Although Republican racism is America’s biggest problem, Obama has to be unhappy with the Senate and the real question is if a Democrat primary challenger will emerge. After all, avoiding such a fight—the equivalent of a political civil war—may be his only play if he’s to be defeated in the 2012 general election.