Like the Sirens reputed to lure sailors onto rocks, a series of columnists who want President Obama to fail are praising Obama’s capitulation on extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. The motif of these comments has three common characteristics – all designed to destroy the Obama presidency. First, and the chutzpah of this aspect is wondrous, those that hate Obama’s policies are telling Obama he is demonstrating his strength by surrendering on the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy. Second, they claim that Obama “moved to the center” by agreeing to support tax cuts for the wealthy. Third, they claim that Obama’s attacks on his strongest supporters are brilliant politics essential to saving his Presidency.
Dana Milbank’s recent column is one example of the three-part motif. The title of the column captures the first aspect: “Obama finally stands his ground.” What he means of course is that Obama failed to stand his ground, repudiating his promises to end the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Milbank also said that while extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy was “dumb,” Obama’s agreement to extend those tax cuts was the first thing that Obama had ever done that made Milbank “proud.” Milbank is finally “proud” because Obama is excoriating his strongest political supporters – the “liberals” who Milbank detests. Milbank’s explanation of why he detests liberals parrots conservative Republicans.
Monday, we were treated to the triple motif from another commentator who desperately wants Obama to fail. Mark Penn, the CEO of Burson-Marsteller, claims in a column entitled “Democrats need to back Obama” that:
By becoming reverse tax protesters (chanting “raise taxes”), the liberals are sending out all the wrong messages to a country that overwhelmingly backs the key elements of the bipartisan deal the president struck.
[T]he Democrats have got to stop returning to class warfare.
Obama took the first step this week in seeking to save his floundering presidency by moving to the center. His execution was far from perfect but his actions were sound.
Obama has now gone down a path he cannot and should not retreat from — governing from the center.
In a series of untruthful sentences, Penn hits each of the elements of the motif. Supporting the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy constitutes “moving to the center.” “Liberals” are the demons whose desire to raise taxes would doom the Obama Presidency. Bush doesn’t engage in “class warfare” when he cuts tax rates for the wealthiest Americans – anyone who opposes Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, however, is engaged in “class warfare.” Obama’s capitulation on Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is not a retreat from his campaign promises – repudiating his capitulation to the Republicans on those tax cuts would constitute a “retreat” and demonstrate weakness. . . . Read the rest of this entry →