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Divided Democrats shift strategy

By Ben Pershing
President Obama's State of the Union address seems to have done little to clarify the way forward for his agenda, as congressional Democrats are prepared to shift their focus to the economy but remain unsure how to complete health care or lift themselves out of the electoral doldrums.

"The White House on Thursday signaled the outlines of its strategy for breaking the partisan logjam holding up President Obama's agenda," the New York Times reports, "saying Democrats would move quickly to underline their commitment to fixing the broken economy and to build an election-year case against Republicans if they do not cooperate." Rahm Emanuel tells the paper the White House hopes the Senate takes up a jobs bill next week, then Obama's proposal for a new fee on banks and then the financial regulatory reform bill before returning to health care. Politico observes "it's clear health care is already falling to the back of the legislative line, behind the Democrats' feverish new focus on jobs and the economy. Health care reform didn't even make the cut when ... Chuck Schumer ticked off the party's priorities Thursday."

The Washington Post writes that "Democrats remained in disarray Thursday about how to move forward, with at least some pointing at the White House as the cause of the legislative standstill gripping Capitol Hill." On health care, Politico reports "the administration seems to have decided that they need to stop talking process and start emphasizing substance. ... Indeed, many Democrats feel that the relentless coverage of how reform is getting done- including legislative deal making and intraparty conflict - has cost the legislation much of its public support." Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid both vow that the party will still do health care, but there remains no consensus on how. The Wall Street Journal quotes the chairman of PhRMA saying "the group 'hasn't withdrawn support' for the version of health-care reform passed by the Senate, but that the Massachusetts election has 'thrown everything up in the air a bit.'"

If a jobs bill will be at the front of the line, what will be in it? Bloomberg reports Obama "plans to announce details today of a $33 billion package of incentives for small businesses to encourage hiring and wage increases as he refocuses on economic concerns in an election year." USA Today says "some of the nation's job creators are dubious" of Obama's proposal to give employers tax credits for adding jobs. Economists tell Politico the president's "job-creation program could produce a short-term political boost, but it's unlikely to significantly stem job losses and reduce the unemployment rate anytime soon." Harry Reid was planning to unveil the Senate's jobs bill Thursday but postponed it to incorporate the package of proposals coming from the White House. The Hill says "Senate Democrats are haggling over the cost and scope" of the jobs package.

Obama went to Florida Thursday to announce grants for high-speed rail just as the Senate was voting to raise the federal debt limit. "Together, the two developments spotlighted the administration's juggling act as the president calls for more spending to boost employment, while endorsing fiscal discipline to tame a record federal budget deficit," the Wall Street Journal writes. (The paper notes that the Tampa event was "the first joint political appearance" between Obama and Vice President Biden since last February. Discuss.) Paul Krugman mocks "deficit peacocks" -- Obama and Republicans both included -- who strut their commitment to slashing spending even when economic conditions makes cuts unwise. Obama now has another controversy that could distract from his economic message: "Facing mounting pressure from New York politicians concerned about costs and security, the Obama administration on Thursday began considering moving the trial of the chief organizer of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks out of Manhattan, administration officials said," the New York Times reports.

George Will writes that Obama "tiptoed Wednesday night along the seam that bifurcates the Democratic Party's brain. The seam separates that brain's John Quincy Adams lobe from its Sigmund Freud lobe." Translation: Part of the speech was about telling Americans "what is good for them -- health-care reform, carbon rationing, etc. -- even if the dimwits do not desire it," while the rest concerned settling "for deferred and diminished but achievable results." Peggy Noonan says presidents should be firm with Congress: "You don't let them blur your picture and make you more common. You don't let them call the big shots." In the State of the Union, she found a "contradiction at its heart. It repeatedly asserted that Washington is the answer to everything. At the same time it painted a picture of Washington as a sick and broken place. It was a speech that argued against itself: You need us to heal you. Don't trust us, we think of no one but ourselves."

The day after the State of the Union, the commentariat was still buzzing about Samuel Alito's mouthing "not true" when Obama criticized last week's Supreme Court campaign finance ruling. But while the coverage Wednesday night focused on Alito's seeming breach of decorum, some of Thursday's stories shifted to whether it was Obama who had stepped out of line with his comments before a television audience of millions. "It is not unusual for presidents to disagree publicly with Supreme Court decisions. But they tend to do so at news conferences and in written statements, not to the justices' faces," the New York Times writes. The Washington Post reports "legal experts said they had never seen anything quite like it, a rare and unvarnished showdown between two political branches during what is usually the careful choreography of the State of the Union address." ABC News says "Obama shares some of the blame for this contretemps -- and he knows it."

The Legal Times does some research and finds "Presidents have mentioned the Supreme Court by name only nine times since [1913], and it would be hard to categorize many of those nine as criticisms." The Los Angeles Times notes "the clash between Alito and Obama has some history behind it" -- Obama voted against Alito's nomination in the Senate, Alito wrote the Lily Ledbetter decision that Obama strongly criticized, and Alito skipped a "friendly meeting" at the Supreme Court last January with Obama and Vice President Biden.

The House GOP is in Baltimore for its annual retreat, awaiting today's visit by Obama. "Emboldened by an unexpected victory in Massachusetts and frustrated with a 'partisan' State of the Union address, House Republicans are eager to meet with" the president, the Hill writes. Obama's visit "is unlikely to change Republican behavior," the Los Angeles Times writes, as "Republican leaders did not seem to be in a frame of mind for compromising." In Hawaii, Michael Steele and his fellow Republican National Committee officials are lapping up the warmth (at this writing, Honolulu was 52 degrees warmer than Washington) even as they squabble over the party's future. The Washington Post says "Steele defended his decision to convene the meeting at a lush beach resort even as millions of Americans are without jobs," as his opposition to a "purity test" for Republican candidates helped doom the proposal. Dick Armey has told "Steele that his plans to align the Republican Party with the 'tea party' movement will fail unless Mr. Steele proves his bona fides on taxing-and-spending issues," the Washington Times reports.

By Ben Pershing  |  January 29, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Rundown  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: For State of the Union address 'survivors,' it's been pizza and day trips
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The only job focus of the Obama administration has been jobs in the public sector or union jobs. These are jobs that hire mostly "juiced" employees - those who have a political or familial connection. The administration has done nothing about private sector job creation since taking office, in spite of the fact that they told you the "stimulus" bill would keep unemployment from going over 8%.

Like it or not, Barack Obama is a far-left socialist ideologue who must wear down the private sector in order to advance his agenda. His socialist agenda can not thrive alongside a robust private sector. He must have Americans dependent upon the government in order for his agenda to pass. That won't happen if the economy is bustling and the people are working.

That is exactly why this second "stimulus" bill, which the democrats are calling a "jobs bill", won't work. At best, it will make a small dent in the unemployment situation, which is exactly what the administration desires.

Posted by: bigbird7 | January 31, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Those who criticize Obama for commenting on SCOTUS's overturning precedent in order to give corporations freedom to use as much money as they want in political elections was wrong, well, no. It was an excellent idea done at a perfect time. I am appalled that Alito, the son of a corporate executive, would bring his biased viewpoint into the court, and impair our elections in this way. Wait a while and you will see the way this bad, bad decision poisons the political process.

Posted by: drzimmern1 | January 31, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

This administration is an abomination and Pelosi and Reid are backroom crooks. I can't stand to watch the news knowing one of the three of them will pop up on the screen. Hey Obama, here's anger for ya. And I know why I'm angry.

Problem: Steele thinks he justified the Hawaii meet. He didn't. The RNC is in trouble and if they think they're going to align themselves with the tea partiers maybe they should try to RELATE to tea party members--most of whom can't imagine a warm beach right now. Republican leaders: pull your head out.

Posted by: PollyWog | January 29, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse

The stench of the lies, manipulation, intimidation, coercion, bribery, corruption, and backroom deals to force us to swallow the Obamacare SCAM -- which would destroy our health care, our economy, our freedoms and our country -- has forever tainted the Democratic party.

The Obamacare scam has demonstrated that there's no longer a Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has been replaced by the Progressive (Marxist) party, controlled by U.S. enemies like George Soros and bent on destroying America using the tactics of their Marxist mentor Saul Alinsky.

Awaken by the Obamacare scam, thinking Americans are ready to do whatever it takes to defend their future – and the future of their children and grandchildren -- from Obama and his Marxist scams, including Obamacare and cap and trade.

Posted by: AntonioSosa | January 29, 2010 10:51 PM | Report abuse

No one can have witnessed Obama's speeches, weird thought processes, sociopathological lying and come away believing that he is not completely WHACKED, SMACKED...out of his frickin mind.

We have a nut case in the White House.

Please control the nut, Congress! We are counting on you!

Posted by: easttxisfreaky | January 29, 2010 10:17 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: connyankee1 | January 29, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

President Obama has finally found that there is a second way to skin a cat. Or should I say, another time?
The day will surely come that all Americans will see universal healthcare as much an obligation as public education. So soon after a Cold War that has made us weary of anything resembling socialism or big government, and smack in the midst of an economic crisis we can't even yet define as deflation or inflation (so how are we to fight it?). No one has yet found the right balance between capitalist greed and social justice. We will be the first but it should be done in a way that will not divide the country.

Posted by: eliseom | January 29, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Obama will keep spending,and to the voters of America remember Thomas Jefferson.

"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity(future generations), under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale."

Obama is a swindler, among other things.

Posted by: jcoriginal | January 29, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

So once again the democrats get elected into office with their campaign agenda. The problem with health care reform is the lack of facts on the matter. What are the out of pocket and deductible expenses? What happens if the government plan is better than the one I currently have? Would I be able to drop my plan and sign up for the government plan? What proposals have the health care industry made? Why doesn't health care fall under a Consumer Protection Act?

Posted by: garyk995 | January 29, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Seeing health care reform put on the back burner is disheartening. While the health care bill was subpar, it was better than nothing. President Obama and Congress had a clear mandate they dithered away in the back halls of the Capitol. Shame on them.

The opposing party usually does well in midterm elections, and Republicans tend to fare better than Democrats in special elections. Add the fact that Massachusetts voters already have health care and were possibly reacting to fears of having to foot the bill for the rest of the country, and Brown's election was a foregone conclusion. Man up, Democrats, and match your vote to your rhetoric!

Posted by: nancytropoli | January 29, 2010 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Lets go ahead and have the healthcare reform relegated to the ancient history shelves along with the HAMP farce, TARP, Harp and all the other defunct Obama reforms.

Americans, your voice is not a whisper any longer - keep yellin', blogging and contacting your state and federal representatives. Those who think they are qualified to represent us in the government need to think about these two words, "JOB SECURITY."

Our government should work for us - we are the people! As ALways Annie

Posted by: annie21 | January 29, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

If the Dems don't pass some form of Health Care Reform to be sure that pre-existing illnesses are covered at the very least, I can't see how they can remain in office.

They will have pissed everybody off, most importantly their supporters, and the voters who stepped over party lines to put the Dems in office.

It sure is going to look stupid that after having given Dems everything they needed to win, a Democrat Senate, House, and White House, they still couldn't get the job done!

Posted by: lindalovejones | January 29, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

If the Dems don't pass some form of Health Care Reform to be sure that pre-existing illnesses are covered at the very least, I can't see how they can remain in office.

They will have pissed everybody off, most importantly their supporters, and the voters who stepped over party lines to put the Dems in office.

It sure is going to look stupid that after having given Dems everything they needed to win, a Democrat Senate, House, and White House, they still couldn't get the job done!

Posted by: lindalovejones | January 29, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Oh now he is ready to work on jobs. He wants another worthless Stimulus II to provide more phony jobs. Stimulus I was the largest payoff ever to special interests and he wants us to trust an administration with less than 7 percent total business experience to create jobs? No thank you.
And if this failure of a President thinks we are going to fall for this ramming of horrific health care government takeover, he has another thing coming. If they think they can turn a deaf ear to the people who put them there, they are going to have a big surprise. These deaf arrogant liberals are about to find out what the real world is all about. We will be sending them home to discover this brave new world.
In all honesty, in my little sphere of influence, I really have never seen discontent on this level. I was so surprised this President pushed the same old ideas that everyone has already rejected.
It was a stunning portrayal of ignorance and arrogance one usually never sees at a State of the Union speech.

Posted by: greatgran1 | January 29, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

It's about jobs and the economy now. (Didn't the Pres say that this would be his priority during his second year in office?) Well, so times are still very hard. And some rail at Pres. Obama: it's all his fault, they declaim (let's forget that times were hard long before he took over). But this chorus of blame assumes that the recession would have been reversed faster and all Americans better off if Obama had lost the presidential election. If anyone can prove this, I wish they'd share their facts with me ... because I just don't see where this certainty comes from.

Posted by: mdt44 | January 29, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Barry the incompetent boob Obama wastes his first year in office pushing Obamacare a failed effort, while unemployment jumps up from 7% to more than 10% unemployment.

This headless chicken in the White House is already a lame duck president after just one year in office.

It would be an insult to sailors to say that Barry spends the people's money like a drunken sailor.

Miserable failure Obama.

Posted by: screwjob11 | January 29, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I hate to tell you the bad news. It doesn't matter what their strategy is. They're incompetent. They can't pass things like effective health care reform when they try for a whole year to do it.

The Republicans plump for the rich, and the Democrats are incompetent, especially the Senate.

The middle class is, for lack of being able to use the word I want to use, "stabbed in the back" either way.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | January 29, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I think the writer of this column would like them to be more divided than they are. Sometime in the very near future the republicans will be squealing like Newt Gingrich did the day President Clinton put up the best economic plan of the 20Th century. Then came Bush and a lack of literacy to govern the government and its business and walla, we get the biggest economic disaster since the depression. I can remember Gingrich later claiming that Bush SRS trickle down approach was the reason for the best economic gain in the history of the country under Clinton. I thought that he must of forgotten Bush Sr. favorite words, "Jump Start" and then of course when W's neglect made it fall apart, It was Clinton's fault!!!
Whatever's convenient there Dingrich!!

Posted by: kimkimminni1 | January 29, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Honestly, it's not very hard to understand.

This is no longer a center-right country. On virtually every issue, this is now a center-left country. When Democrats run on liberal principles, they WIN. When they fail to govern according to liberal principles, they LOSE. When Obama campaigned to the left, he won in a landslide. As he drifted to the center-right, he lost much of his popularity.

The fact that Democrats FAILED to provide the public option in healthcare that the vast majority of Americans want means they will LOSE big in 2010. And it ain't because Americans buy the absurd, hysterical and extremist rhetoric coming from our right-wing lunatic fringe friends.

Posted by: sequoiaqueneaux | January 29, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

The fact that PhRMA "hasn't withdrawn support" for the Senate bill is exactly why most Americans have not given theirs.
If Washington is truly listening, then they will understand that yes we want health care reform, but not what's currently on the table. It's too sweeping and tilted in industry's favor.
Get it right, then pass it.

Posted by: mtpeaks | January 29, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

The american people are scared, frustrated and confused. the republicans are responsible for the confusion ex.(death panels) because the republicans simply do not want a successful forward government during a democratic presidency! Why do I say this? Because the republican leaders have outright came out and proclaimed that if Obama fails in health care reform it will be his waterloo and the republicans will not accept or agree to any health care reform! it is what it is!

we are our own worst enemies!

Posted by: ggrant9170 | January 29, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

After humiliating defeat in MA, Obama has to yield mounting public pressure on nuclear power generation by stating 'we need to build ... a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country' in his state of union address. This is a big shift on his focus (?)since the nuclear power plant was left out in his stimulus plan and cap-trade bill. Is this to be followed by action, or just political propaganda to draw big applause (which actually happened ) ?

Posted by: ypcchiu | January 29, 2010 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Obama must work on regaining the trust of the public before he delves back into serious legislative accomplishments. Americans want something more than one speech about jobs.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | January 29, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

The Republicans shill for the rich and the Democrats are incompetent, especially in the Senate. Ordinary people are left out in the cold.

Posted by: tinyjab40 | January 29, 2010 8:47 AM | Report abuse

In his SOTU, President Obama again said he has banned torture. But Homeland operatives defy him.


• Regional Homeland Security- administered fusion centers use a nationwide microwave/laser pulsed electromagnetic radiation "directed energy" weapon system to silently torture, impair, subjugate unconstitutionally "targeted" Americans and their families -- an American genocide hiding in plain sight.

• Victims' own cell phones may be used to target them.

• How a young FBI agent's 'I believe you' gave victim the faith to go public.

For the full story:


• Bucks County, PA MAGLOCLEN/RissNet Mid-Atlantic "fusion center" -- "Ground Zero for Homeland High-Tech Torture and Community Watch Domestic Terrorism" OR (see "stories" list).

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 29, 2010 8:29 AM | Report abuse

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