In the Mirror


Political Bedfellows: The Strange Case Of The Bush Tax Cuts

Blog From
December 15th, 2010

The outcome of the November mid-term elections is forcing President Obama to fulfill one of his major 2008 campaign promises. With Republicans newly empowered, the President must become bipartisan in deed, not just in word, or be left in the blame dust come 2012. So, for starters, he’s jumped in bed with GOP leaders in extending all of the Bush tax cuts as part of a negotiated tax package.

Obama’s about-face has left Democrats, especially those in the House who risked voter annihilation to support his policies, feeling jilted. And angry. And threatening retaliation by defeating the tax cut compromise unless modifications are made, most notably in the brokered estate tax rates.

Why is there so much anger among House Dems? Because they were shut out of the negotiations. And, they feel betrayed. After the deal was struck, Obama sent Biden to the Hill to deliver the news in take-it-or-leave-it style to House Democrats. Days later, he characterized opposing members of his Party as sanctimonious purists who would break the middle-class before bending to a necessary compromise.

He wasn’t any easier on Republicans, of course, lashing out at them as hostage takers in forcing the trade-off. Still, the harshness of his treatment of the House Faithful is strange indeed. What is Obama thinking?

There are several possibilities. Maybe the treatment is not the result of thought so much as an inability to bring opposing sides together. We know Obama can negotiate. We don’t have to look farther back than Obamacare for that. The President pushed healthcare through with blood-sweat-and-tears entreaties to his own folks. And he parleyed with Republicans on the tax cuts. But, while he can wheel and deal with one set of politicians, he can’t seem to do it with two at once.

Certainly, it’s much more difficult to bring two sides together rather than just cut a deal for yourself with one of them. When you do the latter, all you have to think about is what you’re willing to give up, not the concerns of many others. And it’s a lot faster to shut one side out of the process. No protracted bitching and moaning while the disgruntled grandstand to the skeptical. Just get a deal done and force it down the throats of the shutouts, using a lot of political grandstanding of your own.

Or maybe Obama knows that House Democrats won’t compromise so bothering to include them in discussions is just too much bother. Maybe he, unlike Nancy Pelosi, did not miss the message of the mid-terms. He might actually realize that moderates and independents are jumping ship. For that reason, House Democrats must look like a giant boat anchor to him. Wielding the mid-terms as a handy double-edged sword, he cut liberals loose.

Or maybe Obama just doesn’t care about what others want. He’s spent too much time reading too much favorable press and his own prose. So, he goes solo, using whatever expedients and scapegoats the prevailing political winds blow across his path. With Obamacare, it was the House Dems who helped out and the Republicans who were whipping posts. With tax cuts, the GOP gets the supporting role while the House Democrats play the patsies.

Or maybe, like an answer to a multiple-choice question, it’s all of the above. Obama doesn’t bring sides together because he doesn’t know how, it’s too much trouble, it won’t get him re-elected and it doesn’t matter to him. Which says a lot about what he’s all about.

See you in the mirror.

Posted in In the Mirror