Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How to Spend a Windfall in Political Capital

President Obama is having a very good week.  He actually got Donald Trump to zip his trap and go away. The killing of the world's worst terrorist and one of the most hated men in history went off without a hitch.  If Republicans aren't enthusiastically praising him, they are at least having the good sense to keep their mouths shut.*

Obama has got himself some real power, some political capital he has not possessed since his inauguration.  The question is, what will he do with it?

Will he strong-arm his opponents and push through legislation that's been stagnating in the doldrums?  If he were to march to Capitol Hill and demand passage of the DREAM Act, for example, can you imagine sourpuss Mitch McConnell responding that his main goal is not to give the president a second term?  Now is the time for Obama to come out swinging for Elizabeth Warren as permanent head of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and show he will stand up for the middle class.

  He must capitalize on this National Assassination Celebration. Political good moods are temporary things.  George Bush the Elder had 90 percent approval ratings after the routing of Iraq from Kuwait and not long after was soundly defeated by Bill Clinton.  It was the economy, stupid -- remember?

Now is also the time to declare Mission Accomplished in Afghanistan and start bringing the troops home, ahead of the tenuous July drawdown schedule.  Otherwise, the excuses for staying will start multiplying like rabbits. Clean breaks are better than compound fractures.  Let the President point to the reduction in the defense budget as a reason to start investing in jobs and infrastructure here at home.

The next few weeks will be crucial.  Progressives will be putting Obama to the test.  If he continues to intone the Bipartisan Mantra and stall on important legislation and invite the same old compromise, I will throw up my hands in despair. He has proven he is no Jimmy Carter, so he shouldn't feel he has to be Jimmy Carter.

And if he continues to talk about civility being an end in itself, we should simply point out this incontrovertible fact.  Mr. President -- you just ordered an assassination.  So how about kicking a little Republican ass for a change?  Prove once and for all you are not one of them. Either seize the day or watch your newfound support crumble as fast as it was resurrected. 

* Update 5/9 -  Wow, was that wishful thinking or what?  What a difference a week and 2500 cable news shows make. Cheney, Cheney, Condi, Rummy, Fredo, Mukasey... all the ghouls have arisen from the grave.


Anonymous said...

Yes well, I wouldn't hold your breath.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

I only WISH Obama was a Jimmy Carter! Then he would have integrity, compassion and be a true advocate for the Middle Class and peace in the Middle East. Jimmy Carter stood for something and he wasn't anyone's patsy - so take that Ted Kennedy and Tip O'Neal!

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

As many times as I give Obama the benefit of the doubt, hoping he will stand for traditional Democratic, progressive values, he disappoints. You are totally right, Karen, public approval is a fleeting thing. I remember writing letter after letter to the White House in January, February, March of 2009 saying, "What are you waiting for? The Democrats have a majority in the House and the Senate. The general public wants change; that's why people voted for you. Do you think it’s going to get better than this?" But Barack Obama sat on his hands and squandered that golden opportunity. No surprise, it didn't come around a second time and it has been an uphill battle ever since to pass any kind of meaningful legislation.

Well, miracles of miracles, turns out Obama IS getting a second chance! He has a golden opportunity to "strike while the iron is hot" and confirm Liz Warren and make a case for the CFPB. He can at least LOOK like he is trying to defend Main Street against the exploitation of Wall Street.

One more thing about Jimmy Carter, the thing I respect most about Jimmy Carter is he was willing to fight the good fight. He didn't give up, like Obama did with the public option, just because the battle was going to be tough. He had the capacity and foresight to plan for our nation's energy future and he used the bully pulpit to reach out to his constituency. It is not Carter's fault that the many good things he started (research for alternative fuels, peace in the Middle East, financial prudency) were dismantled by Reagan.

My biggest gripe with Obama is not that he tried to do the good things he promised and failed; it is that he didn't try at all.

The country is watching Mr. President. You aren't entitled to our vote just because you are on the Democratic ticket; you have to earn it. Give us a reason to vote for you in 2012.

DreamsAmelia said...

Valerie, I so agree with you about Carter, yet look how the mainstream media and the "60 Minutes" interview this year is determined to cast him into the eternal damnation of one of America's "weakest ever" presidents...while Reagan is eternally glorified, and took over National Airport's name, even though it was FDR's brainchild and legacy. FDR rightfully deserves his name on the airport, but his modesty in leaving his name off gave the gangster Reagan the opportunity to usurp it. Yet another example of how "might makes right"-- as long as this can be exploited, the subtler truths and profound moral truths will be trounced on.
Only those who have eyes to see can see the horrific opportunism at play, and see that Carter was by far one of our strongest presidents, carried by moral truths, and remains so his whole life with his work for Habitat for Humanity, combating river blindness in Africa, and peace missions in the Mid-East.
President Obama does not seem to hold the same caliber of fire in his belly, but that does not mean our demands will be any less vehement.

Valerie said...

Thanks, Amelia. It’s always nice to find another Carter fan.

I went back and read the transcript of the 60 minutes interview. Ya know,I just can't find anything wrong with what Carter did or even said. Everything he said in his fireside chat was the truth. And as terrible as it was for those poor hostages, starting a war with Iran over it would have cost so many, many lives. It wouldn't have been a short war anymore than Afghanistan has been a short war.

The only reason why I think the Republicans hate him so much is that Carter exhibited and continues to exhibit integrity and moral courage - qualities they are so lacking in themselves. Like the insecure, bullies that they are they feel if they put him down no one will notice the shallowness of their own characters.

I think the thing that bothers me most is when I read my fellow Democrats going along with this false image of Carter as being weak and ineffective. As if comparing Obama to Carter is an insult. I wish Democrats would start sticking up for Carter. After all, why are we all so frustrated with Obama? He lacks the moral courage to do what is right and the integrity to keep his promises.

While I am happy that Carter lived to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, which he so richly deserved, I also hope he will live to see his reputation put right.

Anonymous said...

You said it. It is a sad state of affairs when "winning" is aping Republican policies. Winning to me would have been a retreat from militarism. I'm sorry if this is seen as some sort of insistence on ideological purity.

Karen Garcia said...

Re Jimmy Carter:
My sentence "he has proven he is no Jimmy Carter,so he shouldn't feel he has to be Jimmy Carter" appears to have been interpreted as trashing Jimmy Carter. I will be more specific. After the botched helicopter rescue of the Iran hostages, Carter became in effect a lame duck president. He had already been pretty much a lame duck president since Ted Kennedy primaried him and weakened him. Obama, on the other hand, has bought himself some much needed capital and a resurgence of support, albeit temporary, from the bin Laden killing. He has heretofore been acting like a lame duck who was ceding all power to the Republicans. And now he has no excuse!
I always liked Jimmy Carter. He was way too honest for Washington. Obama pretends to be a Jimmy Carter insofar as he espouses civility. However, he appears not to have the core principles of Carter.

Valerie Long Tweedie said...

Hi! Karen,

I just read your reply to my Carter comment - Sorry, I would have replied sooner if I had seen it earlier. My criticism of Democrats going along with the weak and ineffective image of Carter wasn't aimed at you or your words. I understood what you meant.

I just get so riled up about the injustice of it all. I think Carter has proven the kind of man he is and the values he stood for when he was president. Enough time has passed for all fair minded people to acknowledge that what Carter said in his Fireside Chat (I refuse to call it the Malaise Speech) was the truth. And History should acknowledge that much of what Carter accomplished and the many wonderful programs he started, that were later dismantled by Reagan, would have been good for our country. Yet Jimmy Carter seems to be the Republican's favourite whipping boy. It might be that Clinton was in such collusion with the Republicans that they aren't about to criticize one of their own. Or it might be that Carter just won't stop using what celebrity he has to stand against for injustice.

The Democrats I refer to are people like Maureen Dowd who carelessly throws around Carter's name as an insult and Leslie Stahl whose interview was full of sly innuendos. Yet I never hear progressive politicians or progressives in general protesting. It reminds me of elementary school when some brave soul was picked on by the bullies. No one jumped in to defend that kid for fear the bullies would turn their hatefulness on them. It is just wrong and I won't stop saying it is wrong.

But it wasn’t aimed at you, Karen. I’m sorry if it came across that way.