Uhmm. Don’t look now, Mr. President, but you’re taking a mandate and turning it into mush.
Ordinarily that might not matter much. The importance of the goings on inside the Beltway are notoriously overestimated.
But as you yourself said, this election was an unusually clear and important choice between two fundamentally different views of government. And as you noted, the stakes were high.
You pointed out that that the prescriptions Republicans were pushing to fix the economy were those that caused the economic collapse.
And guess what? Being the only sane candidate on the issue became a political asset.
And you won.
Yet one week after the election, you warned progressives to be prepared for "bitter pills." Really? Why not just tell McConnell, Bohner and the tea crazies we’re ready to fold?
And sure enough, here you are, hardly a month and a half away from that victory, offering up compromises that hurt the middle class and low-income earners, in order to pay for extending tax cuts to those making as much as $400,000.
When Bush won a narrow victory in 2004, he took to the podium and talked about “political capital,” then promptly mounted an assault on Social Security – the one solvent program in government – in the name of curing insolvency.
He got his head handed to him by the people who elected you, Mr. President. People who think the United States is more than just an everyman-for-himself cesspool of greed. People who believe we are greatest when we stand together; that the measure of our greatness is not about how we treat the well off, but by how we treat the least fortunate among us. People who believe compassion is a value, not a political slogan. A strength, not a weakness.
These people fought for you. They believed your rhetoric when you channeled Franklin Roosevelt in Osawatomie Kansas, and called this battle the defining issue of our time. That was the kick-off for your quadrennial drift to the left.
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But you won, Mr. President. You don’t need to drift back to the “center” – a mythical line that has been dragged to the right for 30 years running now.
Yet you seem ready to trade away without a fight, a good part of what Bush could not win. “Grand Bargain?” It’s starting to sound like just another name for turncoat. Look, this stuff matters. As Krugman pointed out, people will suffer if we start messing with Social Security and Medicare.
Bottom line? Cutting middle class benefits isn’t just bad politics; it will hurt the economy and wreck programs that work for the people – the people who elected you based on your promises.
You’re not facing another election. There’s no need for political sophistry; no need to seek balance between right wing whack-jobs with a corporate agenda and the people. The people are on the right side of this issue. All you have to do is join them.
And now let’s talk global warming.
Four years ago, you recognized that this is one of the biggest, most important issues humanity has ever faced. In November of 2008, you said:
My presidency will mark a new chapter in America's leadership on climate change that will strengthen our security and create millions of new jobs in the process.
But last month you said:
There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices. And understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused, and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth, that if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody is going togo for that. I won’t go for that.
Huh? You were right the first time – tackling climate change won’t crash our economy, it will create more jobs than spending on fossil fuels would. It’s no coincidence that two of the fastest growing economies in the world – China and Germany – are also leading the world in renewable energy.
Then there’s Joe Biden. This Spring when he said he endorsed same-sex marriage, the punditocracy labeled it a gaff and politicians and political spinmeisters cringed or licked their lips with glee, depending upon which Party they were with.
But here’s the deal. Joey spoke plainly and honestly about a controversial issue, and it worked to the Party’s – and your – favor. What we now call gaffs, we used to call leadership.
Try it Mr. President. You’ve got nothing to lose, and you just might drag that political center line back where it belongs and put the nation back in the hands of the people, not the plutocrats.