Friday, December 17, 2010

Obama's Clear Liberal Voice

One of the knocks Obama's critics on the left have against Obama is that he spends too much time criticizing them and not enough time attacking Republicans.  I myself have been accused of this, and it's somehow imagined that I'm attacking these people, even though I've only been expressing my disagreement with their political ideas and never insulted them or disagreed with their policy goals.  Apparently, it's ok for them to call Obama a spineless sell-out, as well as calling me a conservative asshole; and it only proves that the labels are correct if we dare defend ourselves against them.

And one of the recent issues involving this is in regards to Obama's press conference last week when he announced his deal with Republicans which extended the Bush tax cuts for the rich in exchange for getting some liberal policies, as well as ending Republican's legislative blockaid, which would have prevented us from repealing DADT, passing the now-dead Omnibus spending bill, and other items Democrats are trying to finalize at year end.

And Obama's critics, including longtime reader John of the Dead, suggested that Obama spent more time attacking liberals than Republicans, which was apparently a sign of something; though he failed to say what that sign was.  But I wanted to return to that press conference and see if that's what actually happened. 

I'm going to start with his prepared speech, and move on to his Q&A in a separate post.

Tale of the Tape

Here are the second, third, and fourth paragraphs from his prepared speech:
Now, there’s no doubt that the differences between the parties are real and they are profound. Ever since I started running for this office I've said that we should only extend the tax cuts for the middle class. These are the Americans who’ve taken the biggest hit not only from this recession but from nearly a decade of costs that have gone up while their paychecks have not. It would be a grave injustice to let taxes increase for these Americans right now. And it would deal a serious blow to our economic recovery.

Now, Republicans have a different view. They believe that we should also make permanent the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. I completely disagree with this. A permanent extension of these tax cuts would cost us $700 billion at a time when we need to start focusing on bringing down our deficit. And economists from all across the political spectrum agree that giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires does very little to actually grow our economy.

This is where the debate has stood for the last couple of weeks. And what is abundantly clear to everyone in this town is that Republicans will block a permanent tax cut for the middle class unless they also get a permanent tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, regardless of the cost or impact on the deficit.
This is how he led off and I see nothing here that any good liberal would be offended with.  Sure, some will argue that we shouldn't extend the taxcuts for the upper-middle-class or for anyone; but there's nothing here that should be offensive to liberals.  He made his case of what he wants, and how the Republican plan is both expensive and useless.  Sounds good so far.

We Cannot Afford To Extend the Taxcuts Any Longer

Here are a few random digs on Republicans from the prepared speech:
"...if Republicans truly believe we shouldn’t raise taxes on anyone while our economy is still recovering from the recession, then surely we shouldn’t cut taxes for wealthy people while letting them rise on parents and students and small businesses."

"In exchange, the Republicans have asked for more generous treatment of the estate tax than I think is wise or warranted. But we have insisted that that will be temporary."

"I have no doubt that everyone will find something in this compromise that they don’t like. In fact, there are things in here that I don’t like -- namely the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and the wealthiest estates. But these tax cuts will expire in two years. And I’m confident that as we make tough choices about bringing our deficit down, as I engage in a conversation with the American people about the hard choices we’re going to have to make to secure our future and our children’s future and our grandchildren’s future, it will become apparent that we cannot afford to extend those tax cuts any longer."
Now, did he slap them around?  No, of course not.  Because that's just not done.  Similarly, you won't find speeches of Bush slapping around Democrats when he was president.  That's not how presidents do things. 

Political versus Policy Debates

But all the same, he laid out a clear liberal voice of what Republicans were doing and why he opposed them.  You can actually read his entire speech and he explains things even better.  Now, did he have a few subtle messages at the people on the left who wouldn't like the compromise?  Of course.  But he explained why he did what he did and I don't see any insults being hurled in their direction. 

And it was quite clear that, while he disagreed with the politics of those on the left who wouldn't like what he did, he denounced both the politics and the policies of Republicans he was forced to compromise with; and spent more time on the Republicans.  And that's exactly what I've been doing too.  Democrats are having fights over political moves, not policy moves.  Obama's leftwing critics insist that he could get more if he acted more boldly, and Obama disagrees.  But he's not attacking them, disparaging their intentions, or disagreeing with their policy goals.  It'd be nice if they treated him with the same respect.

Obama wants the same things we want; not because he's a liberal ideologue or because liberals are keeping his feet to the fire, but because liberal policies work and he'll take any policy that works.  The only difference is that he's the guy responsible for getting these things, and we're not.  It's not an enviable position, I'm sure.  And who knows, maybe it is all just a sham and him and his Republican brethern are laughing at us behind the scenes.  But he's still talking like a moderate-liberal and I see absolutely no reason to doubt his intentions.

Next, I'll address the things he said in the Q&A portion of the event.

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