Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea!

Weighted Down by the Forces of History?

Barack Obama Strikes A Deal with GOP

At the risk of appearing wishy washy, I must confess that I agree with the compromise President Obama has struck with the Republicans regarding tax policy. I feel a need to declare this right off, since it was just day before yesterday that I demanded the President stand and fight; yield not another inch; even fall on his sword and be taken out bleeding on his shield: but never, never, give in: no more compromises with the evil doers who dwell in the dungeons of the Grand Obstructionist Party! I was encouraged in the moral righteousness and political correctness of my position by a swelling chorus on the left that seconded my emotions.

Everywhere I turned I found my conviction that the President should fight to the death before extending the Bush tax giveaways to the Plutocrats reinforced. The Democratic members of Congress echoed my thoughts like a Greek chorus.  I had even counted myself among those who would abandon the President should he refuse to take a stand – see “The President Must Stand And Fight!” –  especially since the latest poll showed that 56% of the public is opposed to extending Bush’s taxation folly, and 14% want to let all the tax cuts lapse.  That’s 70 % of the American public who are ready to back the President’s play if he chose to stand up to the Republican shills for the filthy rich.  And he has acknowledged this fact.  But it does nothing to help him achieve his critical objectives, which must be addressed immediately.

As I write the President is holding a press conference to explain his actions.  He presented his position with the clarity of a law professor enlightening his students about the workings of the American government.  His speech was clear and concise: he said the choice before him is to wage a fight that would eventually expose the Republicans as charlatans, but would also result in collateral damage to the millions of Americans who are depending on extended unemployment benefits, and millions more employed workers whose taxes would dramatically rise when all the tax cuts expire a month from now. Given these alternatives President Obama chose to address the critical needs of those whose economic survival depends on these benefits; even if it means that he has to compromise with the dreaded Republicans to do it.

The questions from the Washington press corps were predictable and some were too clever by half.  I think the President handled them like he was their daddy!   His attitude throughout was “I am the adult here, and this is no time for petulance.”  As I have said repeatedly Politics is the art of the possible; it is both art and science, a game for master players, and President Obama, guided by deep humanistic concerns, has played his hand just right.  Although neither he, nor I, like the deal he did, it was the only acceptable game on the table.  As Mr. Obama said “ Our country was born in compromise; without compromise we would have no union.”  All of this is true on its face.

Predictably, the know-it-all white boys – this time on the liberal left, are complaining about his style.  Mark Halpern, for instance, says the President “should have been bigger in his attitude.”  Halpern thought Mr. Obama was too confrontational; and this after all of the prattle about him being too easy. Even a guy as bright as Keith Olberman couldn’t resist taking cheap shots at the President for “getting angry with his democratic base.”

I have often said Keith is one of the smartest guys on television, but he is talking like a fool in this instance. The President expects the Republicans to oppose him no matter what he does; but he has every right to expect the Democrats to support him!  So when he pompously implored the President: “You are yelling at the wrong people,” I say Bullshit!  He is aiming his shots right where they belong!

The rest of the largely white left is also bitching and moaning – although the black left and reactionary racial nationalists are sometimes worst – yet none of them have any real solution to this dilemma.  Bernie Sanders, the independent socialist in the Senate, a man with whom I am normally in agreement, is actingly like a deluded ideologue by threatening to filibuster the bill that would consummate the deal.   The Senator, albiet well meaning, reminds me of the man who was running down the street and stumbled over the naked truth but ran on as if nothing had happened.   It is enough to make one wonder if these white boys cannot accept the fact that Barack Obama is way smarter than them – although white girls and many black girls are no better.   None of them seem to understand that that’s why he is the President and they are not!

These omnicient  pontificators conveniently forget that Barack won the most powerful office in the world even though he had to bear the burden of race on top of having to successfully negotiate all of the obstacles the white folks had to overcome.  I don’t think these guys can even imagine the troubles he’s seen; that’s why they don’t recognize that they are in the presence of a superior politician and theoretician.  Although Barack was forced by the political realities to extend the tax cuts for the Plutocrats for two more years, in return he got tax cuts for workers and the middle class – some of whose tax burdens would have doubled – extended unemployment benefits for the long term unemployed, and secured tax breaks for college expenses.  And judging from the predictions coming from the business sector, it may very well have the added advantage of stimulating investment in the US economy which will result in job creation.

Hence the President did not walk away empty handed; he struck quite a bargain on behalf of millions of Americans  – 156 million all told – who desperately need the benefits he is providing.  And I’ll bet they are ecstatic about it. I have heard nothing from the President’s critics that even make sense, let alone offer a better solution.  Beyond expressions of self-rightous anger and wishful thinking there is no there there!   Furthermore…. it has not escaped my notice that all the people in the press and peanut gallery who are screaming for the President to let the unemployment benefits for millions lapse, in order to teach the Republicans a lesson, are all gainfully employed.





Playthell Benjamin

Harlem, New York


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