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This is who Obama Is

James Warren has an excellent article in The Atlantic “Get Over It: This Is Who Obama Is“, which provides a reality check for those who are mad at Obama about the debt ceiling deal (even though it was written before the deal was done).

Those people (I’m looking at you, progressives) who are angry at Obama for this deal are missing the point. In the face of virtually impossible odds, Obama managed to pull out a deal at the last minute when people like me didn’t think it had a chance.

If you want to be angry at anyone, get really angry at the voters who elected politicians who were willing to do anything, even hold our country hostage, just in order to make Obama look bad. If your response to this deal is to be angry at Obama, then the partisans have won, and you will have helped them.

Instead, do everything you can to make sure the next election fixes this problem. After all, even the most moderate Republican candidate for the presidency, Mitt Romney, is blasting this deal as too liberal. Other GOP candidates are worse. Is that what you want?

Or would you have wanted Obama to stand firm and watch the government default … on “principle”? Arguments that negotiating with “terrorists” only makes them worse forget that these are terrorists that we can vote out of office. After that comes the real work of fixing our government so it is not completely beholden to money and power.

Don’t get me wrong. There are things about which I’m pissed off at Obama, but this is not one of them. This is not an unforced error.

It is often said that liberals eat their own, but if we are going to fix our government we need to remain focused on the goal, and not get discouraged any time things don’t go entirely our way.

© Bill Day

UPDATE: And furthermore, to all those people who think Obama unilaterally capitulated in the debt ceiling deal … upon just what are you basing your screaming and wringing of hands? Here’s a progressive voice that gives a convincing argument that Obama left the Republicans holding the teabag, and ate John Boehner’s lunch to boot.



  1. starluna wrote:

    I’m going to be writing today about how disgusted I’ve become with my liberal friends and colleagues and their reaction to Obama in this mess. The blame and the anger towards him by the left is the mirror of the blame and anger that the right wing nutcases direct at him.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 6:42 am | Permalink
  2. Iron Knee wrote:

    Be sure to post a link to anything you write, or let me post it.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink
  3. I am clearly becoming more Progressive over these last few years. I don’t blame Obama now (though I think he would have had a stronger hand now if he had played more hardball during the Health Reform compromises: taking single-player off the table was necessary, but he did it too soon, and he’s seen as weaker now because of it).

    I do blame our media/education system for not creating a sufficiently sophisticated electorate that we can vote in people who are more than ideologues.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink
  4. ebdoug wrote:

    To you progressives: Obama took single payer off to get the bill, less than perfect through before the Republicans won the House of Representatives through Karl Rove blasting our high level of taxes.(I.E. brain washing people) He knew he had until the election to get done what he could do. Now his hands are tied until he can get both houses back. Koch brothers are going to try to keep that from happening. But he got health care for all and mandated health care for all. Nothing is set in stone, all can be changed if he can get both houses back.
    Thought Dancer: my e-mail address I would be more than happy to mail you a copy of “Inside Job.” Then you can pass it on to someone else.
    $.40 of every dollar of our taxes is supposedly spent on the economic mess of the 2000s. starting with the repeal of bank regulations in the 1990s. Eva

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink
  5. Rob wrote:

    I think you’re missing the point. while the tea party MIGHT have let the country default (and I doubt that), the old guard republicans wouldn’t. any real compromise could have gotten dems and all but the 74 or so tea party caucus members in the house on board and beat a filibuster in the senate.

    but the republicans have learned over, and over, and over… all they have to do is refuse to give an inch, act like they are “craaaaazzyyyyy”, and the democrats will give them pretty much everything they ask for.

    the democrats have ceded positions of incredible relative strength several times in recent history.. delaying the tax break vote before the 2010 elections, giving in on those tax breaks after the election, and now getting no revenues and cutting spending in a weak economy when they could have forced the republicans to take the grand bargain, taken away the deficit argument next year, and not killed the economy in the process.

    But if the democrats held firm repeating the “this is the compromise” chant, an 11th hour deal would still have been struck. otherwise it would have been the 1995 shutdown, but a hundred times worse, for the republican party and you couldn’t have gotten one elected dog catcher for the next two to four years at least.

    But the GOP now knows they never need give until the last minute, when they will get the best possible deal, especially now that they have those “crazy” teaparty members to blame everything bad on in their own party… something that probably wouldn’t even piss off the old guard either.

    I am beginning to think the democrats just voice the plans that people want and INTENTIONALLY sabotage them at the end to satisfy their own ultra wealthy donors, and that they and the GOP are working at very similar purposes in the end. because nothing they’ve done in years resembles an actual strategy, effective negotiation, or even a strong principle. Just a lot of rhetoric that gets thrown out the window as soon as the GOP stomps their feet.

    it’s sad.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 10:02 am | Permalink
  6. john haskell wrote:

    Marc Ambinder: “… it would seem that they [GOP] have a significant amount of leverage over the White House now, going in. Was there ever any attempt by the White House to include raising the debt limit as a part of this package?”

    THE PRESIDENT: “When you say it would seem they’ll have a significant amount of leverage over the White House, what do you mean?”

    December 7 2010. A Day Which Will Live In Infamy

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink
  7. David Freeman wrote:

    So let’s see if I have this right. The Republicans hold a gun to our head. The White House Knight sweeps in and prevents the murder. We still get raped. We’re supposed to be happy about this?

    Sure, I’m glad default and worldwide economic chaos was averted but I don’t have to be nice about it.

    Yes, this was, as you correctly state, not an unforced error – but I disagree with the tennis analogy. Obama is playing chess and he keeps using a bad opening. He repeatedly begins negotiations by taking things off the table as his first move. He has to sign this bill, I’d sign it too, but it was poor play that forced us into checkmate.

    In answer to a few of your rhetorical questions:
    1) “If you want to be angry at anyone, get really angry at the voters who elected politicians who were willing to do anything, even hold our country hostage, just in order to make Obama look bad.” OK, I’m mad at them.
    2) “Other GOP candidates are worse. Is that what you want?” You’re right, I don’t want that. Still, I would like for Obama to occasionally listen to progressives. Even if progressive ideas cannot win 60 votes in the Senate, we should air them.
    3) “would you have wanted Obama to stand firm and watch the government default … on “principle”?” No to defaulting on principle (actually I think we would have defaulted on the interest payments ☺ ) but a little backbone earlier would have been good.

    The canard about liberals eating their own should go both ways. We haven’t been fed. I too voted for Obama knowing he’s moderate. However, I did expect a few more progressive policies based on his Community Organizer background and his campaign statements.

    IK, your posts have varied from perceptive to brilliant, far better than I could ever do, but this time you set up a straw man and knocked him down good.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    OK before anyone else wrings their hands about Obama giving in to Tea Party Terrorists, where did you get that idea? Were you just anticipating that the Republicans would get their way (because you have totally bought into the narrative that Obama and the Dems capitulate too easily) so you just automatically started whining without actually, you know, looking into what the deal does? I thought so.

    Politics is complicated and subtle, and Obama is actually pretty good at it. At least one progressive voice has analyzed the deal and thinks Obama won big time. So before you do any more complaining, read this:

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 11:22 am | Permalink
  9. PatriotSGT wrote:

    As I see it there were some long term victories won by both sides. In my thinking here are the things won/lost by both sides:
    1. Spending cuts (GOP win)
    2. Smaller spending cuts then the 4-6 trillion desired by the GOP (DEM win)
    3. No tax increases (GOP win)
    4. Extending the credit limit through 2012 (Obama win)

    Now lets look at the future. At the end of Sept the current CR runs out and will have to be either renewed or an actual budget put in place. If not the Gov’t shuts down, but debt obligations get paid. The GOP will likely get some more cuts, and no tax increases. (GOP wins)
    At the end of December the Bush tax cuts expire and the DEM Senate will likely not extend them without major consessions by the house. (Obama/DEM win)

    So in my mind, unless they only extend the CR to marry up with the Bush cuts (dumb for Obama/DEMs)both sides in the end will get what they wanted. Spending reductions, which we need (although not as agressive as originally sought) and tax increases, which we need. By this time next year we should be in a much stronger fiscal state.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink
  10. David Freeman wrote:

    I took my shot and I’ll stand by it (and yes, I had read the White House spin on this). I do think “The People’s View” article’s dismissive take on Krugman and Galbraith is a bit over the top. There is room for intelligent, informed and well-intentioned people to disagree on this.

    Seriously though, you don’t think the Dems capitulate too easily? That said, I hope to be proven wrong. I really do!

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    You and I agree that only time will tell.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Permalink
  12. Patricia wrote:

    One thing that really bothers me (and I realize it is entirely subjective) is the endlessly repeated images of Senator Mitch McConnell’s beaming face after the deal was done. Given the blatent gloating the good senator exudes in these photos, I can only hope that has it right and Krugman is wrong.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Permalink
  13. Rob wrote:

    I don’t buy into any narrative. I WATCH the democrats pass up actually using the high ground, ever, in every negotiation that runs into significant and public opposition of any kind. Either they are HORRIBLE tacticians or they are deliberately throwing the game. Since I doubt they are all idiots, I’m starting to suspect the latter. I mean really, who bumps voting on extending the bush tax cuts… unpopular with the majority of americans, in the middle of a poor economy… until AFTER an election? An election in which they are being attacked over the deficit especially? Ridiculous.

    The fact that Obama succeeded in not eviscerating our entire social safety net doesn’t mean any thing to me: that was never really going to happen anyway, that would have KILLED the GOP next year. That was a sacrificial anode so the GOP could say they compromised. They want to kill discretionary spending and they have enough whack jobs on their side to talk about cutting social security and medicare that it sounds like a plausible threat… but they have already been beat up on that. they wouldn’t go to the mat for it again. at least they wouldn’t push for any more cuts than the democrats are willing to agree are necessary.

    the GOP leaders have been saying since day one that default was not an option. Only the tea party members acted like it was, and they can’t stop a thing by themselves. the old guard just has to keep those people happy to avoid primary challenges, but there is no point in being ok in a primary if you lose the election either. they know that. That’s why they signalled that they would not allow default and that’s why boehner tried for the grand bargain, I wager. but they can use the “crazy” teabaggers to inspire fear in their opponents.. it’s good cop, bad cop.

    So we’re supposed to be happy that concessions were made that protect things that were never really threatened, from a party that was never really willing to allow a default, and that their 10th hour demands for six month re votes and the like were avoided? Please. We’re supposed to be happy that NEXT time Obama REALLY WILL veto the tax breaks on the rich? Please. The democrats have shown no stomach for that at all. They will campaign a little, subtly, so we all think they will make that an issue without ever really basing their campaign on it, and they will again fail to do so after the election because of some “emergency concession” they need to grant to get some important piece of legislation through.

    Hey, maybe like this one that they are setting up already!

    the mistake is thinking that the republicans are capable of doing what they say they will do. they are not. they are simply very good at marching in lockstep and making wild demands with a straight face in spite of all reason, then acting like they never said it when they get movement in the direction they want as a result.

    The democrats had the power here from day one. the republicans could never have allowed default to occur. this is a pretty weak “victory” by any measure.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Permalink
  14. Falkelord wrote:

    Hey man, what if we like…all were victory.

    “You can’t please all of the people all of the time.”
    -Richard Nixon

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 5:21 pm | Permalink
  15. starluna wrote:

    Rob – I don’t think that the Democrats had the power that you believe they had. We have a divided Congress and a moderate president. Congress already has the legal power and the rules allow any minority to create exactly this kind of havoc. What we’ve just been through is part of the structure of the system, although the extreme use of filibuster rules are more recent.

    I wrote about this today and posted it on my blog. You can read it here:

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Permalink
  16. David R. wrote:

    Surprisingly, the answer to this question

    “Or would you have wanted Obama to stand firm and watch the government default … on “principle”? ”

    is Yes

    The reason is that Mr. Obama should have never entered into negotiations in the first place. He should have said I will only accept a clean bill.

    Once he entered into negotiations he had to either gain considerable concessions or allow the country to default. Yes that would have been a terrible outcome, but like Clinton allowing the government to shut down in 1995, the people would have been on his side and this weapon would have been removed from the arsenal of the extreme right, just as government shutdown as a weapon was removed.

    Now we not only have the debt ceiling as a weapon, a government shutdown will also be a weapon.

    If you are not going to fight, don’t enter the ring.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 6:50 pm | Permalink
  17. oregonbird wrote:

    Yes. This is who Obama is. And yes, there are apologists aplenty who will try to spin this as not-a-total-capitulation. Again.

    I am a socialist democrat. I was delighted to vote for Obama in 2008. I voted in 2010 to keep a Democratic majority. For three years, I have watched a corporate-backed faux party top our government from the bottom, with the absolute contrivance of the democratic leadership.

    So in 2012, I will not be voting for Obama. Yes, I know what that will accomplish. It will accomplish *exactly* what it did in 2008. I hope that there will be a credible primary challenger, or that a Progressive Party puts up Franken – but under no circumstances will I ever vote for Obama again. If Palin runs – I will not vote for Obama. I will not be voting for any incumbant who has signed off on capitulation after capitulation, effectively turning our country and military over to the corporations while pushing a far-right Republican agenda.

    The rich and their corporation were once again protected. My grocery store no longer offers *any* useful coupons or budget savers. The price of a bus ride just went up 20%. A gun went off 11 times outside my house last night. I’ve been unemployed for nearly four years, my savings are nearly gone, and businesses now hire only the solvent and employed. The shelters and street clinics have been shuttered. Terrorists hit a Planned Parenthood facility last week, and it isn’t newsworthy or of interest to the FBI.

    I will *not* take my responsibilities as a citizen so lightly as to put Obama back in office.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 10:09 pm | Permalink
  18. Iron Knee wrote:

    OregonBird, I can sympathize with your situation, but I can’t agree with your conclusion. You seem to be blaming the Democrats for handing our government over to the corporations, but that happened a long time ago. And the “I won’t vote for Obama again” is exactly what the corporations want you to be thinking and doing. You have become part of the problem.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 10:23 pm | Permalink
  19. Arthanyel wrote:

    Oregonbird, I think you have to consider both the alternatives and recognize that we have a republic. As lon gas the Republicans have a filibuster-sized minority in the Senate, or (now) a majority in the House, there is simply no way to get anything done at all without their support. And their support is contingent on breaks for corporaitons and the wealthy.

    It’s awful, but that’s the way the system was designed. The only thing we can do is try to make sure that we get the best representatives and President we can, and that enough of the country agrees with us that they can make something happen.

    Being mad at Obama and many Democrats for some of their actions is perfectly understandable. Giving the control to the Republicans, however, would be FAR worse. Which means we need every vote for every progressive and Democratic candidate we can find, and we have to re-elect Obama. Because even if you don’t think he is the best President, he will certainly be the best choice in comparison to the alternative.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink
  20. Iron Knee wrote:

    Our response to this mess should be to elect as many people as possible who will take back our government from the big corporations and rich, who will do what’s right, not just what will get them lots of campaign donations. Getting apathetic and not voting is not an option. In fact, just voting is clearly not enough.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink
  21. starluna wrote:

    RE: voting is clearly not enough

    Excellent point. Excellent, excellent point.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  22. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I have been watching this post and have been delighted at the progression of the discussion. What started out as incendiary commentary turned, through some very perceptive contributions by key participants, into an analysis of the root causes. In the first half I saw comments like:

    Arguments that negotiating with “terrorists” only makes them worse forget that these are terrorists that we can vote out of office –

    The Republicans hold a gun to our head –

    Tea Party Terrorists –

    These comments were way over the top in my mind. It sounded like the rabid right on the fringe. Then subtly the conversation changed from being politically centered pitting good vs. evil parties to the root causes that are outside interests in the manipulation of the political system and policy process.
    I think early on ROB hit the proverbial nail on the head when he said “I am beginning to think the democrats just voice the plans that people want and INTENTIONALLY sabotage them at the end to satisfy their own ultra wealthy donors, and that they and the GOP are working at very similar purposes in the end.”
    And finally, IK summed it all up with this, “Our response to this mess should be to elect as many people as possible who will take back our government from the big corporations and rich, who will do what’s right, not just what will get them lots of campaign donations.”

    Now that IMO is the crux of the whole situation. Nice job everybody. If only our politicians could work through such emotionally charged topics and come to the same realistic level headed conclusions. Thats why this is the only blog I’ll consistently read and or contribute to.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink
  23. Iron Knee wrote:

    Thanks! I think — I had comments in both the “way over the top” and in the category you liked.

    I do want to point out that when I used the word “terrorists” I was actually disagreeing with the person who called them terrorists and said we should not negotiate with them. I was pointing out that they aren’t really terrorists and that the only reason they have any power at all is because somewhere, a bunch of us voted for them.

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Permalink
  24. PatriotSGT wrote:

    You are most welcome. I did catch that you were disagreeing, but included it because anyone who might simply browse keywords without taking the time to “take in” what was being communicated could misinterpret.

    Keep doing what you do. This is a place where real discussion can take place and although non of us agree all the time we can be civil and at least understand the others beliefs and point. Civil but empassioned discourse is what our government was founded upon and although it’s maddening at times it creates a thorough presentation if nothing else. One thing no other country could accuse us of is making on-the-spot decisions now could they (although sometimes it might work better, like when its my idea) 😉

    Wednesday, August 3, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  25. Ernest wrote:

    Immediately upon his election he was attacked irrationally as a socialist, fascist, etc.

    McConnell said the GOP goal was to make sure Obama was a one termmer.

    I understood what that meant have been conscious of politics since 1970.

    The first and second times he caved I gave it the “6 dimensional” chess pass, but was concerned about his future “compromises”.

    The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was the cave-in on the tax break extensions last December.

    If he had done nothing and the tax breaks were ended as a result, we would not have had to go through with this budget kabuki theater. And we would have been well on our way to a better future.

    I have since reached the realization that Obama is a GOP Quisling and how better to advance a fascist corporate agenda then by having the first “colored” President open up the flanks for them. I wish it was not true, but I am afraid it is.

    Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Permalink
  26. Arthanyel wrote:

    Ernest, I think you should reconsider. Obama has not been a “GOP Quisling”, he is in a most unfortunate position and has done at every turn what appears to be the best thing he can get with the country as a whole in mind.

    The tax break extension is a good example. He only had two choices – extend the tax breaks on everyone, keeping money in the pockets of the middle class to spend and help keep the economy staggering towards improvement, or let them expire for all, which would have helped the deficit but sucker punched the economic recovery. He knew he could not get the right answer – extend temporarily the cuts on the middle class only – but he decided (correctly) that the extension was the lesser of two evils AND he got the GOP to do a lot more than they would ever have agreed to otherwise – like extending unemployment benefits.

    If Obama is guilty of anything it is that he has accepted progress no matter how small at the expense of standing on principle. And given our serious economic concerns, I think he’s doing the best he can.

    I suggest we try to give him a fully in control Democratic House and Senate so the Republicans can’t block what he thinks is right, and let’s take our chances. Much better than doing the same for the Republicans.

    Thursday, August 4, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Permalink
  27. What A World wrote:

    The way a lot of you think and the Democraps are why this country is going down the tube

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 5:41 am | Permalink
  28. Iron Knee wrote:

    As opposed to the people who want to institute religious law in this country (like Bachmann and Perry)?

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Permalink