Friday, September 16, 2011

Maureen Dowd On President Obama's Jobs Bill Speech and the Dire Necessity To Revive His Administration (Before It's Too Late)

Maureen Dowd
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

"As always, the same questions persist in our long, fruitless effort to pierce the Obama opacity. How long can the president sustain the sizzle before the fizzle? Does he get it together when the country’s in trouble or when he’s in trouble?"

"It’s still impossible to sum up what Obama’s presidency is about right now, except saving his own job."


Though many of his supporters simply don't wanna hear it about this President, I think Maureen Dowd is unfortunately 100% correct in her general assessment of Obama's mixed and confused motives...Let's face facts: Obama's biggest and most disturbing character flaw (which far too often rules his political instincts and thus his general goals, strategy, and tactics) is and has always been HUBRIS. When the overweening demands and desires of personal ego begin to dictate and guide how one approaches the resolution of problems--and the resulting insecurities when things inevitably go against you or when unforseen adversity strikes--it serves as a big and very distracting impediment to having the courage, tenacity, integrity, and perserverance that it takes to get important things done--whether a large number of people oppose, hate, or dismiss you or not. One can't possibly be "loved" or even "liked" by "everyone" and it's a sign of real weakness in a person when they think they can simply 'charm' or impress people enough to either receive their fawning, uncritical support and/or effectively neutralize ones opposition enough to make it possible to ultimately prevail in any and all circumstances. When one stupidly "negotiates from behind" all the time as Obama invariably and inexplicably does when locked in any battle with his and our political and ideological enemies, it doesn't suggest-- as Obama keeps vainly insisting-- that he is simply trying to be 'fair, objective, and balanced' in his approach but rather that he is simply afraid of them and their fierce opposition because it would expose him to being publicly rebuffed and thus embarrassed. But of course this kind of opposition does lead to Obama's enemies rebuffing his advances and he winds up being both defeated and embarrassed anyway. So it's a double bind of his own making (or subconscious/unconscious choosing). This is the eternal dilemma that Obama finds himself in because he is not fundamentally informed or guided by a firm commitment to specific PRINCIPLES and VALUES which supersede and transcend one's personal ego involvement and which determine how and why one engages their opposition in the public and private combat over ideas, priorities, and desires...


Sleeping Barry Awakes

September 10, 2011

New York Times


The president was strong and House Republicans were conciliatory.

There was only one teensy-weensy problem: The president is weak and House Republicans are obstructionist.

Congressional Republicans, heeding polls indicating that their all-out assault on President Obama was risky, finally tempered their public comments after the jobs speech on Thursday and stopped acting like big jerks.

Obama, heeding plummeting polls and beseeching voices from his despairing base, finally deigned to get tough.

In the capital of political tactics, it was just another fine day of faking it.

The president’s supporters had a single reaction to the fiery address to Congress: It’s about time. But as before when Obama had tried to pivot to jobs, an emergency intervened: Democratic surrogates on TV had to talk about the 9/11 plot before being able to talk about the jobs plan.

In case reporters were too dense to get the point, Eric Cantor’s office underlined it in an unsubtle press release. The headline, “Cantor, House Republicans Strike New Tone, Focus On Areas Of Common Ground,” acknowledged that the snarky, obstreperous old tone wasn’t working for them.

Cantor, the House majority leader, who has had an antagonistic relationship with the president, also wrote an op-ed piece for The Richmond Times-Dispatch demurely titled, “Job Creation — A Priority Both Sides Can Agree On.”

Acting less like the bane of Obama’s existence, John Boehner encouraged Republicans to attend the speech and offered no formal response.

Slyly going into Cantor territory on Friday, the president promised a sustained campaign to sell Americans on his plan. A re-energized Obama urged students at the University of Richmond to lobby lawmakers: “I want you to call, I want you to e-mail, I want you to tweet, I want you to fax, I want you to visit, I want you to Facebook, send a carrier pigeon.” (No letters? No wonder the Postal Service is going bust.)

As always, the same questions persist in our long, fruitless effort to pierce the Obama opacity. How long can the president sustain the sizzle before the fizzle? Does he get it together when the country’s in trouble or when he’s in trouble?

Certainly, Obama cares that Americans are in pain. Yet he has been unable to move away from his academic disdain for hardball and his alpha addiction to buzzer-beating wins.

So while the country has grown ever more scared, miserable, broke and broken, the president has too often been absent, quiet, ambivalent, impenetrable and inscrutable.

The master of his own narrative in print let the Republicans define the narrative in politics. And Obama likes to come in late, after the other players have staked out positions. It’s a strangely risk-averse tact, given the fact that he took two of the boldest risks in history — jumping into the presidential race in the first place and giving the kill order on Bin Laden on sketchy intelligence.

But when his polls plummeted, the Sleeping Beauty President roused himself to transform back into a semblance of the 2008 electrifying phenomenon.

He always must be chided and cajoled before he gets re-engaged. Among other times, it happened during his campaign, when key donors went public with their displeasure at his laconic attitude.

He’s eternally the gifted and sometimes indolent student who has to be wooed and pressured into making the game-winning shot. As one aide joked, “We work 6 to 9 and he works 9 to 6.”

But the odd rhythms of his temperament are less interesting when so much is at stake. Bill Clinton drifted for a time during his presidency, also needing the guillotine to focus his mind. But at least he was drifting on an ocean of peace and prosperity. Disengaging when the United States and the world are going to hell is playing with fire.

We never knew which Clinton would show up: Saturday Night Bill, as Dick Morris called the man of uncurbed appetites, or Sunday Morning Bill, a talented and passionate pol. Now Obama offers his own version of the split-personality presidency: Do we get Energizer Barry or Enervating Barry?

It’s deeply confusing to a country that’s already confused, as well as to the Democratic Party. Will he ever get that through his magnificent brain? The nation deserves clarity and consistency.

Each time Obama goes through a period of lying doggo, his opponents — from Hillary in the primaries to the Tea Party in the summer of 2009 to the House Republicans during the debt-ceiling debacle — get an infusion of oxygen.

The reawakened Republicans are no longer the loyal opposition. They’re revolutionary Bolsheviks who want to eat Obama alive.

When the president stays insulated with his little circle that doesn’t know how to push his messages, and he lets the nihilist Republicans go unchallenged in their crazy claims to be saving the country they’re hurting, he sets the stage for Rick Perry.

It’s still impossible to sum up what Obama’s presidency is about right now, except saving his own job.

Obama Challenges Congress on Job Plan

Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Obama presented a jobs plan to a joint session of Congress on Thursday night in the Capitol.

September 8, 2011
New York Times

WASHINGTON — Mixing politically moderate proposals with a punchy tone, President Obama challenged lawmakers on Thursday to “pass this jobs bill” — a blunt call on Congress to enact his $447 billion package of tax cuts and new government spending, designed to revive a stalling economy and his own political standing.

Speaking to a joint session of Congress, Mr. Obama ticked off a list of measures that he emphasized had been supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the past. To keep the proposals from adding to the swelling federal deficit, Mr. Obama also said he would encourage a more ambitious target for long-term reduction of the deficit.

“You should pass this jobs plan right away,” the president declared over and over in his 32-minute speech, in which he eschewed his trademark soaring oratory in favor of a plainspoken appeal for action, stiffened by a few sarcastic political jabs.

With Republicans listening politely but with stone-faced expressions, Mr. Obama said, “The question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy.”

Though Mr. Obama’s proposals — including an expansion of a cut in payroll taxes and new spending on public works — were widely expected, the package was substantially larger than predicted, and much of the money would flow into the economic bloodstream in 2012. The pace would be similar to that of the $787 billion stimulus package passed in 2009, which was spread over more than two years. Analysts said that, if passed, the package would likely lift growth somewhat.

While Republicans did not often applaud Mr. Obama,, party leaders greeted his proposals with uncharacteristic conciliation. Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, and other Republicans signaled a willingness to consider at least some of the measures, reflecting what some have described as anger in their home districts over the political dysfunction in Washington.

“The proposals the president outlined tonight merit consideration,” Speaker John A. Boehner said in a statement. “We hope he gives serious consideration to our ideas as well.”

Still, analysts said it was unlikely that the White House would win Congressional approval for many elements of the package.

For Mr. Obama, burdened by the lowest approval ratings of his presidency, the address crystallized the multiple challenges he faces, among them reviving a torpid economy with a Republican House that, however receptive some of its leaders appeared Thursday, has staked out a relentlessly confrontational course with the White House. The president must also shake off a perception, after so many speeches on the economy, that he has not delivered on the promise of his oratory.

After weeks on the defensive, however, Mr. Obama seemed to get off his back foot. He framed the debate over the economy as a tug-of-war between mainstream American values and a radical, antigovernment orthodoxy that holds that “the only thing we can do restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own.”

With a difficult re-election bid looming, Mr. Obama declared that his vision would appeal to more voters. “These are real choices we have to make,” he said. “And I’m pretty sure I know what most Americans would choose. It’s not even close.”

At times, he edged into sarcasm. Promoting the extension in the payroll tax cut to Republicans, Mr. Obama said: “I know some of you have sworn oaths never to raise any taxes on anyone for as long as you live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes, which is why you should pass this bill right away.”

The centerpiece of the bill, known as the American Jobs Act, is an extension and expansion of the cut in payroll taxes, worth $240 billion, under which the tax paid by employees would be cut in half through 2012. Smaller businesses would also get a cut in their payroll taxes, as well as a tax holiday for hiring new employees. The plan also provides $140 billion for modernizing schools and repairing roads and bridges — spending that Mr. Obama portrayed as critical to maintaining America’s competitiveness.

The president insisted that everything in the package would be paid for by raising the target for long-term spending cuts to be negotiated by a special Congressional committee. He did not go through the arithmetic, but said he would send a detailed proposal to Congress in a week. Senior White House officials said the amount of increased spending cuts would hinge on how much of the plan gets through Congress.

Mr. Obama said most of his proposals had support from both parties, a contention that Republican leaders rejected. “There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation,” he said. “Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by Democrats and Republicans.”

After a summer consumed by bitter debate over how to reduce the debt and deficit, Mr. Obama kept his focus squarely on the need to create jobs. He acknowledged that the government’s role in fixing the problem was limited, but rejected the Republican argument that Washington’s major contribution would be to eliminate regulations.

“Ultimately, our recovery will be driven not by Washington, but by our businesses and our workers,” he said. “But we can help. We can make a difference. There are steps we can take right now to improve people’s lives.”

Still, even if every one of the proposals were passed by Congress — something that is extremely unlikely to happen — the measures would not solve the economy’s problems, forecasters say, though they would likely spur some growth.

And that encapsulates the quandary for Mr. Obama: so long as there is no evidence of improvement in the job market, his economic call to arms — backed by a familiar list of proposed remedies — may not resonate with an American public grown weary of stagnation and an unemployment rate stuck at 9.1 percent.

Even the scheduling of the speech set off a tempest when Mr. Boehner rejected Mr. Obama’s request to address Congress on Wednesday, the night of a Republican presidential debate. At Mr. Boehner’s request, the White House agreed to move the date to Thursday, which meant Mr. Obama had to wrap up his remarks before the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers kicked off the N.F.L. season. As Mr. Obama was entering the chamber, microphones caught him assuring a lawmaker that his speech would not interfere with the game.

In setting out his program, Mr. Obama was, in effect, daring Republicans not to pass measures that enjoy support among independent voters and business leaders. If the Republicans refuse to embrace at least some of the measures, administration officials said, Mr. Obama will take them directly to the American public, portraying Congress as do-nothing and obstructionist.

“Maybe some of you have decided that those differences are so great that we can only resolve them at the ballot box,” Mr. Obama told the lawmakers. “But know this: the next election is fourteen months away. And the people who sent us here — the people who hired us to work for them — they don’t have the luxury of waiting fourteen months.”