Felicia Muftic: Obama stung, poised to charge
Grand County, CO Colorado
One of my favorite childhood stories was Ferdinand the Bull. Ferdinand had been bred for the fighting ring, and he grew into a magnificent beast. However, he preferred to be peaceful, smelling the flowers in his pasture.
One day, a bee stung him where it hurt, and he snorted and raged. The ring impresario signed him up. While the 1930s story contained a pacifist message, the lesson that I took away from it was that sometimes it takes a trauma for someone to change otherwise innate behavior.
President Obama has smelled the flowers for the past several years. He waited patiently for Congress to act on his agenda, spoke the jargon of compromise even though one half of the participants stonewalled him, proposed concepts of legislation without specifics, allowing Congress to shape the outcome, and he generally acted like the flower-smelling peacemaker in the ring, ready to step in with solutions.
This summer a swarm of bees stung him where it hurt. Polls on his job performance plummeted and “any others but him” were winning. While the stimulus of 2009 kept us out of a depression, the recovery was so fragile it was vulnerable to even the slightest head wind. A war in Libya rang up oil prices ; a European economy sank; Japan’s natural tragedies reduced parts supplies. The U.S. Congress demonstrated a lack of will to raise the debt limit, creating a worldwide loss of confidence in the U.S.’s ability to act rationally.
The fanatical Tea Party had managed to place fear of long term deficits and their anti tax agenda ahead of any other consideration. They irresponsibly crafted a strategy to risk destroying the American economy during the deficit reduction flap in order to remake government into their ideologically based ideal. Fear of a double dip recession and a prediction that unemployment would stay the same through the 2012 election were the final stings.
Rubbing salt in the wound, recently Republicans had decided to make talking points of the dismal employment figures a big deal.
Last Thursday, Obama lowered his horns and charged into Congress. His message was no bull feathers, either. His demeanor changed. In his address to Congress, he literally stared into the eyes of the Republican section of the hall. The furrows between his unblinking eyes deepened. He did not present a general concept as he once did. Instead, Monday he delivered the bill to Congress containing exactly the details of his program to increase jobs, turning the Republicans’ newly found concern about jobs back on to them. He pinned the Republicans against the wall.
His proposed legislation was based on measures supported by Republicans pre-Tea Party and Democrats, too, so that if the GOP embraced his proposals, Obama could claim victory. If they stonewalled him, he could pin the blame for continued joblessness or a double dip recession on the GOP and expose their obstructionism. If they went half way, he could still blame anemic job figures on the GOP .
A near hush has descended on the GOP crowd. Perhaps the Republicans were distracted by Gov. Perry’s attack on that “Ponzi scheme” Medicare. Perhaps the whole nation was fixed on remembering Sept. 11.
Perhaps the Republican Party leaders were afraid of being branded obstructionist since their poll numbers had tanked, too, but they were unsure how many Republicans would join in compromising. Some Machiavellian GOP members were reported by Politico to ask, “Why compromise now? They had Obama just where they wanted him.”
Waiting until next week is Obama’s charge to the super committee for long term deficit reduction. Will the GOP opt to hold short term measures hostage to the long term and drag their feet to make sure nothing significant happens to improve the unemployment figure before November 2012? If those strategies succeed, the losers will not only be the Democrats; it will be the suffering middle class.
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