President Obama faces defeat
President Obama's announcement last night was an obvious trial for him. He was glum throughout, and, as he is wont to do when he encounters defeat (in his post-election "shellacking" press conference, for example) he became peevish.
He complained that the mean Republicans made him do it: "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." Actually, it's clear that a great number of Democrats in the House and Senate have abandoned the class warfare gambit, and now Obama must too. But not willingly, he declared:
I'm not about to add $700 billion to our deficit by allowing a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. And I won't allow any extension of these tax cuts for the wealthy, even a temporary one, without also extending unemployment insurance for Americans who've lost their jobs or additional tax cuts for working families and small businesses -- because 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.
But Republicans weren't opposing tax breaks for anyone. Oh, no, nevermind. This speech was for the liberal base, I suppose. But do they appreciate seeing the president reinforce the obvious, namely that they've lost an election and the debate over soaking the rich? By complaining that he was held hostage by the Republicans, Obama emphasized his own political impotence.
Juan Williams once remarked that Obama wasn't the sort of fellow you'd want with you in a foxhole. When the crowd is swooning and the votes are going his way, no one can take a victory lap like Obama can. But when crisis hits -- for the country or for his and his party's political fortunes -- he too often resorts to grouching and a self-pitying tone. It's not going to win him new admirers, and it's quite likely to annoy his already disallusioned liberal base.
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