Monday, December 27, 2010

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Lie, Lie Again.

Seems our old buddy, Mr. Death Panel, is back again. Some horses you just can’t beat enough. Not satisfied with merely referring to the healthcare plan as a government (read, socialist) takeover of the health insurance industry – a charge that can be proven as patently false to anyone with the ability to read and think – the wing nuts on the Right are gearing up to once more to dip their wicks into the inkwells of fear and ignorance, just in case their legal challenges, like their integrity, go up in a puff of smoke. When reality fails, there’s always deception. After all, it served them so well before.

So what triggered this latest round of hysteria? As we all know, Democrats, succumbing to the pressure of last year’s August Town Hall mobs, removed the end-of-life planning provision from the healthcare reform bill. However, the Obama Administration, not to be outdone, has reintroduced it through a new Medicare regulation set to go into effect January 1, 2011. Under the new policy, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment. Doctors can now provide information to patients on how to prepare an “advance directive,” stating how aggressively they wish to be treated if they are so sick that they cannot make health care decisions for themselves.

Can you spell “Death Panel, Part Deux?” I knew you could. So why all the hubbub? Obviously it isn’t all about killing granny, though continue to look for Grand Poobah Rush Limbaugh and his Knights of the Right Table (Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Mark Levin) to give it the old college try. No, I suspect what’s driving this bus has more to do with the methodology of the Administration than the actual provision itself. Obama was able to bypass the legislative branch altogether by employing a regulation-writing process, a strategy that could become more prevalent over the next two years as a way of overcoming GOP opposition to Democratic initiatives. Understandably, Republicans are concerned about this. What’s the use of having a majority if the Executive branch can do whatever it wants? Funny, that never seemed to bother them when Bush was president. But, as they say in infomercials, “wait, there’s more.”

In an op-ed piece in Blue Wave News, titled, “Media Fails Again On So-Called Death Panels,” Elise (no last name given) sheds some light into this quagmire by pointing out that Medicare already pays for end-of-life discussions between doctor and patient; all this “new” regulation does is expand it from a one-time discussion to a yearly one. “It’s amazing the kind of information you can find by doing some very simple and quick research – like going to the website and searching for ‘end of life planning’ (it’s the 7th link down the page).” According to Elise, it’s the information much of the main-stream media simply has been unwilling to look for.

And, that’s not all. “The most amusing part of this media fail is that the Republicans who passed the Medicare Modernization Act in 2003 actually added this provision to Medicare. It went into effect on January 1, 2005 and it was called the Initial Preventive Physical Examination. They didn’t seem to be too worried about so-called death panels back when they were writing the same end-of-life counseling they’re decrying today into Medicare’s coverage guidelines.

“And let’s take a look at the wider hypocrisy at place here – it’s okay for Republicans to write end-of-life planning into Medicare, but it’s not okay for Democrats to do the same. It’s also okay for Republicans to cut health care coverage to millions and literally create the death panels they spent the last year freaking out about.”

Well it’s okay so long as no one knows about it, which appears to be the standard operating procedure for much of the main-stream media in this country. A hundred years ago, The New York Times coined a phrase that would serve as its modus operandi for generations: All the news that’s fit to print. Apparently the bar has been lowered a bit for today's guardians of journalistic integrity. The new banner should now read, all the news that’s approved to be printed.

Nothing like telling it like it is. Yep, if at first you don’t succeed, lie, lie again. And, oh yeah, get the media to go along for the ride.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Return of the Moderate Republican

With all the talk about the horde of Tea Party extremists about to descend upon Washington next January, the real story has been the surprising resurrection of the moderate Republicans – primarily in the Senate – who have ostensibly defied their party’s leadership and joined ranks with the hated Democrats to produce the most effective lame-duck session Congress has seen in decades. The START Treaty, the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the 9/11 First Responders bill all passed within the last week and serve as testimony that Congress, when it puts its mind to it, can in fact come together and pass significant legislation.

Now, to be sure, none of this spirit of bipartisanship would’ve been possible without the President “caving” on the Bush tax cuts, something, as I recall, his base railed against as selling out to their ideals and values. Remember that line in the sand progressives drew? Well the tide of compromise just swept it out to sea.

While no one with a brain in his or her head expects this new-found brotherly love to last long – in deed I’d be surprised if it survived into February – the nation at least caught a glimpse of something rare in American politics, and I, for one, am impressed. Despite some rather passionate progressive values that resonate deep within my being, at heart I have always believed that the prospect of one side getting everything it wants – no matter how much it might benefit my agenda – can be detrimental to the country. Apparently I have some company in this mindset.

Write down the following names in your rolodex: Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Olympia Snow, Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander, Thad Cochran, Mike Crapo and Tom Coburn. With the House all but certain to resemble the proverbial shop of political horrors over the next two years, look for Obama to build alliances with these moderate Republican Senators and others as he pivots to the Center and isolates the Right. Bill Clinton did virtually the same thing after his mid-term trouncing and took much of the wind out of Newt Gingrich’s sails. If this lame duck is any indication, Captain Pragmatic already has a head start on dear old Bill. As of now Obama’s approval rating has jumped to 56%; the highest it’s been in over a year. By comparison, Clinton had to wait until his second term before his poll numbers recovered that much.

Want to know how certain I am that Obama is succeeding? Just look at the reaction of the wing nuts on Fox News. You think progressives are all up in arms over the new spirit of compromise in Washington, just take a gander at the talking heads at Mount Rupert. Linda Blair looked more amenable in the Exorcist. Witness this exchange between Dick Morris and perennial Bill O’Reilly flunky Laura Ingraham on Bill O’s show.

Ingraham: “Dick am I wrong to be kind of a little bit depressed this Christmas season given the Republicans’ performance on the START Treaty, on some of these other key issues, on the stimulus that was in the tax cut deal…is it better than I think?”

Morris: "What is crucial to focus on is they didn't get any spending cuts in return. Had the Republicans simply said, 'No dice. This is an illegitimate lame duck session, people are not entitled to vote because they were defeated and we're not going to pass anything and we're going to do it on January 2nd and then we're going to demand spending cuts,' which now will have to be fought for in the debt limit ceiling or in the new budget and in the meantime the deficit keeps clicking."

Of course old Motor Mouth and Major Turncoat haven’t acknowledged the real underlining truth in their convoluted logic: namely that the tax cut deal came about mainly due to the fact that for two years Republicans held firm to an all or nothing approach and refused to allow anything to come to a vote on the floor of the Senate unless their demands were met. They took a nation hostage and now they have the audacity to blame Democrats for paying the ransom.

The fact that Obama has forced them to eat their own words has understandably caused a considerable amount of indigestion among the rabble. Ironic isn’t it? Morris, of all people, should recognize the maneuver that out flanked his comrades; his old boss honed it to perfection fifteen years ago. As Yogi Berra would’ve said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Given how arrogant and presumptuous the Right has behaved over the last two years, it was a sweet sight to behold.

Yes, progressives are going to have to swallow quite a lot of pride over the next two years, and we are going to have to make a number of sacrifices and concessions that we would normally never acquiesce to, but the price may be worth it, if, in the end, we can help bring about a splintering of the Party of No. It isn’t going to be easy. The House will be particularly problematic given that this is the chamber where virtually all appropriations are written, but if Obama can politically isolate the extremist elements within it, in the end reason may prevail and something of a working relationship can develop between the White House and Congress.

That is the true mandate that has been given to Washington. Despite what the far Right and, yes, the far Left would have us believe, the electorate expects both sides to come together and govern. The time for holding one’s breath and counting to a zillion must come to an end. This soap opera is getting old fast. If Obama is truly the adult in a classroom that’s full of juvenile delinquents then his greatest tests lie ahead of him. If he wishes he can kill two birds with one stone; first by atoning for a multitude of sins during the first two years of his presidency and then, in the process, securing his place in history alongside his Democratic predecessor. Personally, I’m betting he’s up for the challenge, which is more than I would’ve said even a month ago.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Verities, Balderdash and Dunkirk.

As a progressive, I am blessed(?) with two undeniable truths: one makes me incredibly proud; the other makes me cringe.

First, my side is right. Seriously, on every major issue there is – from helping the poor to caring for the environment to safeguarding public education to religious tolerance to protecting consumer rights and defending equal rights for all – progressives can take pride in the knowledge that they have the moral high ground on each and every one of them. By comparison, the Right would make Ebenezer Scrooge look like Gandhi.

Second, and this is the difficult pill to swallow, on many occasions, we on the Left come off looking like the flip side of the same rotten coin when it comes to the tactics we use and how behave when we don’t get what we want. As deplorable and as partisan as the Right gets, the Left, more often than not, chooses the path of one-upmanship.

Yes, you heard me right. Despite having the satisfaction of knowing we are light years ahead of our opponents, we act every bit as childish when push comes to shove. Witness the brouhaha over the tax deal. Yes, it was deplorable to allow tax breaks for millionaires to be continued, especially in light of the fact that they are virtually worthless as a stimulus for the economy. But to hear liberal and progressive Democrats go on and on and on and on about what a sellout it was and how the President should have held out, reminded me of listening to children whine about having to go to bed. Oh, please, just five more minutes. Please?

And exactly what was the President supposed to hold out for, a moral victory in the face of certain political defeat? Didn’t we already see that in November? Haven’t we spent enough waking hours ripping conservatives for being this intransigent? Now look who’s willing to throw the baby out with the bathwater?

I have tossed and turned on this matter at great length and have come to a sobering conclusion. As a lot, progressives need to grow up and see the world they live in, not the one they wish they had. Someone needs to get a five million gallon tank, fill it with water, gather up every single progressive and throw the contents right smack in their collective faces to wake them up. After sitting through two years of bitching and moaning, in which liberals ostensibly got much, if not all, of what they wanted – though I agree not the way they wanted it – I’m quite frankly aghast at how completely irrational and spoiled rotten they have become since the midterm results. I know losing is tough, but come on guys, you still have the Senate and White House in Democratic control; it’s not like you were exiled to Siberia or something.

Yes, the Republicans are going to try and push you around, and yes, on a few occasions, they are going to get their way, but look at the score sheet. For the last two years you have won virtually every political battle, and the one’s you didn’t, you have only yourselves to blame for losing. Republicans, by and large, sat on the sidelines and sucked their collective thumbs.

How quickly things can turn. Now it’s the GOP that is flexing its muscle and huffing and puffing, and, yes, provoking the Dems. Do you not realize how fortunate you were that your president and mine decided to act responsibly and compromise? If you think this was a hard pill to swallow, imagine being branded the political party that allowed a tax increase, and at the same time kept millions of unemployed from getting the relief they needed. Because that was the label you were about to inherit, courtesy of your ideals and obstinance.

Empty victories are hollow and meaningless and help no one; standing on principles that inevitably lead to defeat is the definition of insanity; and absolute pious indignation in the face of reality is delusional and dangerous, given the current political environment we live in. Progressives, if they are to have any sphere of influence over the next two years, are going to have to accept two hard facts: 1. Most of the country is not driven by ideology, either rightwing or left. They are, for the most part, interested only in results-oriented solutions and elect their leaders accordingly; and 2. Survivors know which fights they can win and which ones they can’t. Democrats must become survivors, if they are to have any shot at winning. Compromise is not a four-letter word.

When the British were getting the hell kicked out of them in continental Europe at the start of World War II, they decided to retreat at Dunkirk. That decision allowed them to regroup and years later they entered the continent again along with the Americans at Normandy. Had they behaved like most of the Democrats in the House, the history of that war would’ve been vastly different.

Progressives must learn the difference between discernment and foolish pride. The former calls for a valiant and spirited debate that in the end permits some, but not all, of their agenda to survive; the latter, while certainly valiant and spirited, will inevitably lead to defeat and political extinction. Healthcare, financial reform, the budget deficit; all will be fiercely contested over the next twenty-four months. There will be plenty of things for progressives to get their dander up about, trust me. Biding one’s time is a skill one develops and hones over a lifetime. It’s a tough challenge, but somehow liberal Democrats must learn a lifetime’s worth of wisdom in a very short period of time. They can ill afford any more foolish banter among themselves in a useless gesture that impresses only their rank and file, while allowing the GOP to ransack the country.

You can’t always get what you want. The Rolling Stones sang that song many years ago. Liberal Democrats would do well to memorize the lyrics. America can’t afford two political parties entrenched in their own private Idaho. One will do. In the end, while most voters aren’t nearly as sophisticated to see the forest for the trees and have the attention span of a gnat, some will be impressed enough to acknowledge at least a willingness to show some conciliation. Barack Obama is betting the ranch that enough of them will be swayed by his overtures to win back the control his party lost in November. History is on his side, if only progressives would take the time to read it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear.

OK, at the risk of sounding a bit paranoid, I feel the need to explain myself a bit more on this tax cut deal. So with your permission, let me borrow a phrase from the late and infamous former president and clear up any misunderstandings if I may.

I completely understand the angst among my fellow progressives that extending the Bush tax cuts for those earning over $250,000 is fiscally irresponsible and is the worst way to “stimulate” an economy. (Frankly, had the economy been in better shape, I would be in favor of letting all of them expire.) Nearly every economist has gone on record as saying that trickle-down / supply-side economics has not worked. It has caused record deficits and virtually gutted the middle class while greatly enriching the upper class. Even David Stockman, the author of Reaganonmics, has abandoned the cause. And I agree with all of you that “laying down” to the Republican “hostage takers”, as Barack Obama correctly called them, is inherently evil and will only make it that much harder to stand up to them later.

So why then did I support the deal? One reason and one reason only: It was the only deal on the table that had a snow-ball’s chance in hell of getting 60 votes in the Senate. No matter how you slice it and dice it, even in the lame-duck session, Democrats not only didn’t have the votes to get what would’ve been the correct deal – namely the elimination of all the upper-tier tax cuts – five of them jumped ship and voted against their own party. Yep, the party that sinks together…

And if you think this was too bitter a pill to swallow and are still of the mindset that it would’ve been better to call the Republican’s bluff and wait it out until January when the next Congress takes over, I give you Governors’ elect Scott Walker and John Kasich. In an obvious case of cutting off your nose to spite your face both men, who haven’t even been sworn into office yet, have refused to take billions of federal dollars that the Department of Transportation had set aside – that would’ve required no state matching funds mind you – for the building of high-speed railways. The railways would’ve taken over three years to build and would’ve employed thousands of workers and thus reduced both state’s unemployment rates; yet neither governor elect wanted any part of them.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what is coming to Washington in 2011. Both the President and the remaining Democrats in Congress are going to have their hands full dealing with a tidal wave of the most irrational and unhinged flock of Congressmen and Senators the nation has yet witnessed. They will have to carefully pick their battles if they are going to govern effectively. This was not the moment to draw a line in the sand.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: this deal, which I agree stinks to high heaven, was about as good as it was going to get, and was considerably better than anything that was awaiting the Democrats in January. Frankly, given the GOP’s rhetoric over the last two years and the lack of, shall we say, testicular fortitude that he has shown, I’m actually surprised that Obama got as much as he did in the deal. It comes down to this: sometimes when you take your medicine you have to hold your nose when you swallow.

Get used to holding your noses people. That’s what happens when you lose.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Obama Shrugged

Well, bless my stars, are progressives ever in a tizzy over the President. First it was healthcare reform with no public option; then it was financial reform with too big to fail still in tact; and now, heavens to Betsy, a deal with the hated Republicans that extends ALL the Bush tax cuts. Seems old Captain Pragmatic can’t do anything right (er, make that good) enough for them. Throw in an over-developed sense of antipathy from the wing nuts on the Right and Barack Obama is now a man without a country, not to mention a political party.

Since engaging in post-mortems is futile at this stage, the choice before Obama seemed rather obvious. Either he was going to do a Truman and/or a Clinton, or he was going to end up a Carter. Those were his options. Mid-terms that do not go well beg for an immediate and predictable response. Without exception, every successful reelection of an incumbent president started with a courting of the Center, often at the expense of the base. Hence, the decision to throw the Left under the bus as it were with the tax deal. In what amounts to the calculated decision of his political life, Obama has opted to go middle of the road and throw both flanks over board. Only time will tell if he is right.

But while Obama’s shift toward the Center may be predictable and have historical precedent behind it, the reaction it has provoked so far has been about as ugly as any sitting president has gotten in recent memory. It’s one thing to be despised by your political opponents; it’s quite another to be publicly vilified by your own party. At a recent White House press briefing Obama had what can only be described as a let your hair down moment as he showed outward frustration over his party’s inability to come to terms with the stark political reality that has befallen them.

“This is the public option debate all over again. So I pass a signature piece of legislation where I finally get health care for all Americans, something that Democrats have been fighting for for 100 years, but because there was a provision in there that they didn't get that would have affected maybe a couple million people, even though we got health insurance for 30 million people, and the potential for lower premiums for 100 million people that somehow that was a sign of weakness and compromise. Now if that's the standard against which we are measuring success or core principles, then let's face it, we will never get anything done. People will have the satisfaction of having a purist position, and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about ourselves about how good our intentions are, how tough we are.”

In an op-ed piece for Mother Jones, titled “Obama Goes Medieval on the Left,” Kevin Drum remarked how stunned the President seemed by criticism from the base of his party.

“His outburst about "purist" liberals was considerably more impassioned than his rather clinical description of Republican "hostage takers." In one sense, this isn't surprising: you expect the opposition to show no mercy and that hardens you to it. You really don't expect it from your putative allies. But in another sense it is surprising: even if Obama thinks his progressive critics are off base, he must know by now how they're going to react to compromises like yesterday's tax cut deal. So why was he apparently so unprepared for this? Why deliberately make things worse with his base during a press conference?

“Answer 1: he just lost his temper a bit. It happens to everyone. Answer 2: it was all precisely calculated. He's convinced that Democrats lost in November because of defections from independents, not liberals, so he's trying to do everything he can to distance himself from the left and win back the center. My guess is that #1 accounts for 10% of his performance and #2 accounts for 90%. After all, we've seen this movie before in 1994.”

Perhaps. Or perhaps, it is a little bit more complicated than that. As stated before, running to the Center is a no-brainer, especially after getting the political wind knocked out of your sails. But I suspect that the real answer is more even-steven than most would like to admit to. And given what this president has had to contend with since he took office, one can hardly blame him.

It is well established that progressives have enjoyed a somewhat tepid relationship with Barack Obama. Publicly they lauded him, while privately holding their noses. Let’s not forget that for most of the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton was the establishment liberal, beloved by her devotees. Obama was the outsider who ran upstream to the political currents within his party. He was the upstart who dared take on the big Clinton machine, and had the audacity – no pun intended – to actually win. Many within the party still have not forgiven him.

And, contrary to the popular mythos that has surrounded him, Obama was never much of an ideologue. His background as a litigator should’ve been the first tip-off as to how he would govern as President. From the beginning, Obama has been both blessed and cursed with seeing both sides of a debate and being able to frame a response accordingly. While Hillary would’ve been far more combative, especially with regards to healthcare, her pride and joy, Obama sought early consensus and took the road more traveled. Compromised and flawed though it might be, he got it through when other presidents, including Bill, failed. That “signature piece of legislation” that Obama spoke of, while a political triumph for him, has been a thorn in the side of progressives ever since it was signed into law, and they have never forgotten it. And you thought elephants had a long memory.

And then there were the personal attacks from the Right that started even before he was sworn in. He was to blame for Bush’s recession, even though virtually every economist has gone on record as stating it began well before the general election. From the Birther movement that still hasn’t gone away, to the charges of being the second coming of Stalin, to shouts of death panels, all the way to the culminating “You lie” remark from Joe Wilson, Obama has managed to remain the adult in the room filled with juvenile delinquents. And he has had to do all of this with little or no backing from his own party, who, more often than not, left him twisting in the breeze. Don’t tell me that doesn’t eventually take its toll. Frankly, I am amazed, given what he has had to contend with, that he has remained this composed for this long.

This is not to suggest that Barack Obama hasn’t earned some of the criticisms that have come his way; far from it. As the leader of the Democratic Party it was his job to set the tone and agenda. More often than not though, he opted to let others chart the course. His hands off approach during both the stimulus and healthcare debates allowed his opponents to craft a narrative that over time took root within the electorate. Obama paid dearly for that bit of naiveté. As his poll numbers began heading south, along with those of his party’s, many pleaded with him to stand up and show some backbone. But, like most intellectuals, he held firm to the belief that in the end the American people would realize the good he and the Democrats had done and respond accordingly.

The election results last November clearly showed otherwise, and only now has he come to realize the sins of his omissions a day late and a nickel short. That burden must be weighing heavily on him. Add to that the realization that he was never progressives’ first choice for president and the deep hatred the Right holds for him and small wonder he unloaded at his press conference. Expect more of the same, and not just because it makes perfect sense politically to put some distance between your base and yourself, but because I suspect that at this moment he has about as much use for them as a bug has for a can of Raid. In deed given how both flanks have treated him these last two years, the Center may be his only comfort and refuge.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

If a Tree Falls in a Forest…

One of the benefits of being under the weather is that it forces you to lay low and conserve your strength. You only have so much energy to go around and you have to be wise in how you spend it. For instance, last week, when I first heard of a potential deal between the Obama Administration and Congressional Republicans to continue the Bush tax cuts for everyone, I was, well, practically beside myself with disdain and proceeded to sit down to write a lengthy diatribe against old captain pragmatic for once again showing off his weak-kneed tendencies and bowing to his lesser angel.

It was to be titled, “Shut It Down.” In it I virtually implored the entire Democratic Party to take their ball and go home for the remainder of the lame-duck session and wait until January to resume “discussions” with the Republicans. That’s right, you heard me, go home and allow all the Bush tax cuts to expire. ALL OF THEM! Use the remaining leverage they have to “force” the Republicans to come to their senses and, perhaps, shame them into doing the right thing. After all, we all know how successful they’ve been at shaming the GOP in the past, right?

But then Providence, and a severe upper respiratory infection, did for me, what my passion and pride wouldn’t allow; it forced me to the sidelines to wait out the affliction. Amazing what a whole week can do for perspective, not to mention a runny nose.

And now that a deal has in deed been struck between the White House and Republicans, I have, to put it mildly, had a change of heart. Not because I believe that tax cuts – especially for rich people – are all that successful in stimulating the economy; they are in fact one of the poorest ways to stimulate an economy, not to mention bad fiscal policy. Nor do I believe that Republicans care all that much about the deficit; this deal, if it passes, proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that the only thing they care about is making sure their cronies get to keep more of their money. Deficit reduction, my ass!

No, the reason for my change of heart should be painfully obvious. Whether anyone on the Left wants to admit it or not, President Obama struck the only deal possible, and not only saved his Party from a potential political disaster, but actually managed to walk away with a number of substantial concessions from the GOP, that, had he waited till January, when they take charge of the House, would’ve been far more difficult, if not impossible, to secure.

Let’s look at the facts, shall we? Two years of failing to construct a narrative that the American voter could follow plainly had cost the Democrats most of the political capital they had going in to 2009. Like it or not, the shellacking they took on election night wasn’t just a shot across the bow, it was a blow amidships and a resounding wakeup call. While I do not believe that mid-terms, in and of themselves, are barometers on ideology shifts, they are, nonetheless report cards from the electorate as to how they feel about what’s going on. And the report card, as far as Democrats were concerned, was coming up Cs, Ds and Fs. It was ugly and threatened to get even uglier. The mandate was delivered loud and clear: “Get your shit together or get out!”

Progressives may not want to hear this, but now is not the time to stand on principles; not with an unemployment rate holding at just south of ten percent. Obama was able to secure extended unemployment benefits for thirteen months, a reduction in social security taxes from 6.2% to 4.2%, and tax incentives for businesses. Next year they can write off 100 percent of new investments in capital goods, up from 50 percent this year. If Obama manages to get his START treaty through the Senate, it will be a slam dunk for him. The only casualty will be Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. That battle will have to wait until next year.

And yet, with reality hitting them in the face and the clock ticking, Congressional Democrats are absolutely incensed at the President for caving in to the GOP without a fight. Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu has referred to this deal as the “Obama-McConnell Plan” and called it “almost morally corrupt.” Well I guess that’s about as intelligent as saying you’re a little pregnant. She then went on to add insult to injury by saying, “Why the president didn't think there were forty or fifty or sixty of us to defend him on this principle, I don't know, but he basically didn't think anybody of us cared much about it. Well, I want him to know I do care.”

Well, Senator, two things, if I may. 1. There weren’t sixty votes in the Senate; in fact there were only fifty-three votes to extend just the tax cuts for the middle class. Anyone with eyes and an ability to count knew that; and 2. If you felt so strongly about the “almost moral corruptness” of this deal, why then did you vote for the tax cuts in the first place?

No, the villain here is not President Obama; the bad guy here is the Democratic Party and the blame falls squarely on the backs of every single member of Congress who had every possible opportunity to put this matter to bed before the mid-terms, when John Boehner was ready to “cave” himself and grant permanent status to the middle-class tax cuts and allow the upper-tier tax cuts to expire. And then they punted, like they always do. This isn’t the seventh-inning, as Vermont Congressman Peter Welch has stupidly remarked. The seventh inning was back in October when Democrats had real leverage. No, Pete, this is the bottom of the ninth and the basses are loaded. In less than two weeks everyone goes home for a month. The only question that still begs to be answered is whether the burden of millions of unemployed Americans will be somewhat lessened or worsened come January. For all his faults, and he has many, Obama was not willing to play a game of chicken with so much at stake. Give credit where credit is due. Sometimes pragmatism has its advantages.

There will be plenty of battles that the GOP will wage against the President and the Democrats in 2011. They will attempt to repeal both the healthcare and financial reform laws. There is also the matter of raising the debt ceiling. That circus alone could prove the biggest mountain of all to climb. And don’t forget, Obama gets to present his 2012 budget to Congress in February. Get your tickets while they’re hot. For now, Obama has managed to take the lemons he was given, courtesy of a major-league ass whoopin, and make lemonade out of them. If his Party is smart, they’ll drink it.