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Posted at 5:51 PM ET, 12/10/2010

Schumer vs. the White House?

By Ezra Klein

One of the reasons that I've been pretty positive about the tax deal is that the other compromises on the table were so bad. The worst -- and, in the minds of most Hill staffers I talked to, the likeliest -- was a two- or three-year extension of the Bush rates combined with a three- or six-month extension of unemployment benefits. But one of the other contenders was Sen. Chuck Schumer's push to extend the tax cuts for all incomes below $1,000,000.

This was a bad deal in all ways but one: Messaging. It extended not only the majority of the Bush tax cuts, but the vast majority. And that was true for most millionaires, too. After all, if you made $1,100,000, you were getting a tax cut on 91 percent of your income. On a policy level, the deal Obama actually got is much better.

But it was a good deal on messaging. So I understand Schumer's frustration. But the reality is, there were a lot of good deals on messaging. Schumer's was one of them -- "are Republicans really going to hold up the tax cuts just to protect every last dollar for every last millionaire?" -- but by no means the only one. "The president will veto any tax-cut bill that extends the cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans at a time when we need to begin cracking down on budget deficits" also made sense. And so too did: "The most important thing right now is that the middle class and those who're struggling in this economy, and so if Republicans are insistent on cutting taxes for the richest Americans, we insist on doing at least twice as much for the rest of the country" -- and that's essentially the deal they got.

But it's not the deal they messaged. In fact, none of the deals were effectively messaged. And that's because the Democratic Party wasn't unified. It didn't come together behind Schumer's plan, or the original Obama plan, or the deal that the administration ultimately struck. The problem wasn't that the Democrats didn't have popular positions, or even that they didn't mention their popular positions, but that they couldn't decide on -- and stick to -- one of them. And now the Obama administration and Schumer are sniping at each other in Politico? It's that disunity that impedes the Democratic Party's efforts to communicate, not anything intrinsic to the issues.

By Ezra Klein  | December 10, 2010; 5:51 PM ET
 
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Comments

It's not the disunity itself, it's the lack of any coherent philosophy strong enough to foster unity.

Posted by: andrewlong | December 10, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Why I love reading Ezra Klein, exhibit 238429 above. So lucid!

Posted by: jstein1129 | December 10, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

I love how the White House is mouthing all this concern for the middle class. Obama's deficit commission (really a flat tax commission) is going to hit us with the largest tax increases we've ever experienced. So what if we keep our tiny Bush tax cut (and if your kids have already flown the coop and you don't make huge amounts of money, those Bush tax cuts were very insignificant).

Posted by: Ladyrantsalot | December 10, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

So the message now is: "People under 20K will have to pay more so that people over 250K can pay less." What a fantastically progressive plan!

Posted by: stonedone | December 10, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

So who could have most effectively marshalled unity among Dems? Obviously the President. Too bad he was too busy going behind the backs of the rest of the Dems to make backrooms deals. He needs to reconsider the whole deal now.

Posted by: RandyMoor | December 10, 2010 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Add this post as exhibit "A" in the case to demonstrate Obama's failure to lead. He failed to package and sell his original "no tax breaks for the rich" position effectively. He failed to unify his party behind him. He failed to strike fear in hearts of the minority (at the time) Republicans by making them realize they would look greedy for challenging him.

And after he failed, we are being told we must take the current deal because "it's the best deal we are gonna get at this time." We now need to be "focused" on getting "the best deal possible at this time" instead of focused on making sure this failure does not happen again.

We saw it with the capitulation on the public option, Don't Ask/Don't Tell, the DREAM Act, and CardCheck, the wars, the stimulus, the bailout, Giethner, Bernanke, Jones, Gates, Guantanamo, the EPA . . . the list goes on and on.

The President doesn't know how to "get it done" for his own party and his voters. He has, however, shown he can get it done for himself and the Republicans who rode to victory in 2010 on his back. Instead of making sure it doesn't happen again on taxes, he has placed himself in the bizarre position of slamming both establishment and liberal dems in Congress for being unhappy, and siding with Republicans to jam this thing through Congress.

And now he's resorted to having to bring Bubba out of the bullpen to stop a potential open revolt from Congressional Dems.

This has become a sad joke.

Posted by: hopeadoped | December 10, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

I suggest the House make two changes to Obama's deal.

First, extend the whole Bush Tax Cut for just one year, with the second year for just incomes under $250,000.

Second, use the money gained to fund Unemployment Insurance for two years, and include the current 99ers who were left out.

The GOP will scream, but will they really give up any extension? The Dems will get a better stimulus return that could nudge the economy along and actually have done something for the long-term unemployed.

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Posted by: shoestrade30 | December 10, 2010 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Democratic Party not united?
But who is the leader of the Party? Who is supposed to unite the Party?
Obama should have united the Democratic Party BEFORE looking for unity with the "hostage takers".

Posted by: Yoni1 | December 10, 2010 8:42 PM | Report abuse

Haha, Odumba is pathetic.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6BA06V20101211

(Reuters) - Bill Clinton basked in the spotlight again at the White House on Friday, holding court with the press and trying to use his popularity to help the current Democratic president pass a controversial tax deal.

Wearing a green tie and clearly enjoying himself, the former president made a surprise visit to the White House press room with President Barack Obama, who spoke briefly, patted Clinton on the back and announced he had to leave for a Christmas party.


How pathetic to crawl underneath the skirt of a man who doesn't even like you.


Posted by: krazen1211 | December 10, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Haha, Odumba is pathetic.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6BA06V20101211

(Reuters) - Bill Clinton basked in the spotlight again at the White House on Friday, holding court with the press and trying to use his popularity to help the current Democratic president pass a controversial tax deal.

Wearing a green tie and clearly enjoying himself, the former president made a surprise visit to the White House press room with President Barack Obama, who spoke briefly, patted Clinton on the back and announced he had to leave for a Christmas party.


How pathetic to crawl underneath the skirt of a man who doesn't even like you.


Posted by: krazen1211 | December 10, 2010 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Slick Clinton on Obama.

Bill Clinton helped sink his wife's chances for an endorsement from Ted Kennedy by belittling Barack Obama as nothing but a race-based candidate.

"A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee," the former president told the liberal lion from Massachusetts, according to the gossipy new campaign book, "Game Change."

Obama on Slick Clinton:


HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't do this job without you!

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 10, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

"It's that disunity that impedes the Democratic Party's efforts to communicate, not anything intrinsic to the issues."

You are putting a finger on the heart of the matter. Indeed Donkey's don't know how to play 'together'.

That is shame. And by the way it is not Obama's job to to herd the flock. Pelosi did to a certain extent; but Dems got to improvise further on this matter.

Who is Dem's equivalent of Sonia Gandhi? We need that unifying force. Gloating about the diversity among Dem Caucus is not going to take them anywhere except under the bus/truck.

Will these Donkey's wake up? Ever?

Posted by: umesh409 | December 10, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

This is a much needed debate in our country for the American people to see how a small group of people (the Rich) control this country, do not pay taxes or their fair share due to tax loopholes and tax shelters, leaving the tax burden on the middle class and working poor, and that the GOP talking points that tax cuts create jobs is false, because for the last 10 years that we have had these tax cuts, we have lost jobs.

And the debate also highlights one party, the Republican, refusing to vote on any legislation to help the little people, the people they are supposed to represent -- 911 responders, unemployment benefits, etc.,(like spoiled children) until they get their way -- tax cuts for the rich!
It will be up to the American people to decide if they want to live with the tax cuts so that their taxes can also go down or if they want the tax cuts for the rich to expire knowing that their taxes will also go up and they will be paying more than they do now. Do they want to make that sacrifice?

And by the way, Sen Mary Landrieux you were for the Bush tax cuts and voted for them, before you were against them!

http://patrickhenrypress.info/node/315136

Posted by: wdsoulplane | December 11, 2010 6:35 AM | Report abuse

Mary Landrieu voted for the tax cuts when there was a surplus. There is now a deficit. I applaud her for recognizing now that it would be a mistake to continue them on the super-rich.

As for the "disunity," Ezra you were just saying how good it was for getting control of Congrees that the Democrats are diverse. Disunity comes with diversity. It is good to see people putting forth their ideas for what is good for the country, instead of getting in line behind a bad plan. A compromise or consensus can be forged in the party, but all parts of the party need to be heard -- not an entire chamber, the House, cut out of negotiations as Obama did.

Posted by: jfung79 | December 11, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

President Obama listen more to his campaign manager Mr. Axelrod than the constituency that elected him in 2008; the means justify the end, and the end is to get re-elected in 2012 (I compare Axelrod to the secretive VP Chenney). They calculate that close to the election there will be opportunities to throw more than one bone to poor progressives. This miscalculation may cost both not only the presidency in 2012 but two remaining years of rear end pain.

Posted by: alzari13 | December 11, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

You are falling for simplistic identity politics and class warfare . Its sad to see it working so well. Confiscatory taxation justified by aiming at unpopular people.

So much for all men are created equal. We are in animal farm some more equal than others mode bigtime and oligarchical collectivism is taking root.

Posted by: mickrussom | December 12, 2010 8:55 PM | Report abuse

Let's face it, O"Bama is a poor leader and the lack of direction runs right through the whole party. Think about it, just who amoung the current democrats in the senate could you possibly consider for a presidential run? Only advantage for O'Bama is that the republicans mentioned by talking heads are all damaged goods.

Posted by: tmd678 | December 13, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

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