While precedent gives little reason for doubt that the Democrats will fall in line behind whatever Obama pushes (as Glenn Greenwald has pointed out), it’s still instructive to note that the administration is engaged in punching not only the hippies but also his own party in ways that go beyond even Clinton’s triangulation.
The rancor over the healthcare debate largely glossed over the fact that Pelosi was hung out to dry by the administration but still managed to deliver the votes to pass it. Even with the tendency to cave that Greenwald described, that’s an accomplishment. Yet we now have articles floated at Time’s Swampland about “how out of touch she is” after she had the temerity to question the mad dash toward austerity:
At Thursday’s White House meeting between President Obama and congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner laid out in stark terms the awful economic repercussions of allowing the debt ceiling to lapse. Everyone in the room agreed that defaulting on U.S. debt would be disastrous and that something must be done. At that point, Nancy Pelosi asked: Why couldn’t the debt ceiling be decoupled from deficit reduction?
Her query, after so many weeks of reports and talks centered on deficit reduction tied to a debt ceiling deal, visibly surprised some leaders in the room, several Republican and Democratic sources say. Obama politely informed the House Minority Leader, those same sources say, that that train had left the station weeks ago.*
But some Republican and Democratic sources point to Pelosi’s question in Thursday’s meeting as one that highlights how out of touch Pelosi has become on policy as she crisscrosses the country fundraising and recruiting candidates, working to regain the majority and her speakership. The President, these same sources suggested, could rely on House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer to deliver moderate Democrats to help pass the debt ceiling, thus circumventing Pelosi.”I think it’s clear she is not taken seriously by White House, Senate and Republican leadership,” said one Democratic member on the condition of anonymity. (emphasis added).
Joe Conason at Truthout makes a similar point about Obama’s behavior.
Suddenly Republican leaders in Congress, after months of staring down the Democrats over a potentially disastrous debt default, began blinking so fast that they might be signaling in Morse code. Although their message is muddled and illogical — with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., saying he can accept closing tax loopholes only if such measures are “revenue neutral,” thus canceling their budgetary value — the Republicans now appear to understand that they will be blamed by voters if the negotiations collapse.
And Democrats appear to understand that they have the political advantage, as they voiced support for a proposal by Senate Budget Committee chair Kent Conrad, D-N.D., to reduce future deficits by $4 trillion with an even split between increased revenues and reduced spending.
But just when the Republicans are showing fear and losing momentum, there is one important Democrat who seems to think it is time to wave the white flag — and give his enemies a historic victory on the eve of his own re-election bid.
According to The Washington Post, President Obama wants “significant” cuts to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican agreement to let tax breaks for the nation’s wealthiest families expire at the end of this year. While White House press secretary Jay Carney would say only that the president is opposed to “slashing” Social Security benefits, that is a semantic dodge leaving open the prospect of substantial cuts.
Why would the president undermine his party’s longstanding support for the two highly popular federal programs — especially when polls consistently show overwhelming majorities in both parties continue to oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits?
That same question could be asked of Obama’s aggressive reversals on every single one of his campaign promises (wiretapping, torture, Guantanamo, war, executive privilege, etc.) and is what I meant by the field day historians will have with his presidency.
Susie Madrak goes there:
I’d read something several months ago that stuck in the back of my mind, and I simply couldn’t retrieve it. I knew it had something to do with why Obama does what he does, but I couldn’t locate it, either online or in my brain.
I finally remembered. It was something at least reasonably credible that described a meeting Obama had with some multinational type, who carefully explained to him that he had to break the back of the American economy, driving us down to a low-wage, low-benefits society — so we could compete with Third World countries for jobs.
And you know, I really do think this is what is going on. The Harvard guy, easily impressed by the elites, dazzled by the fact that he’s one of them, and a man without clearly defined goals or vision, bought that version of reality.
Rather than do the hard work of bringing other countries up to our standards, he’s decided we have to be broken. And he thinks it’s what’s “best” for us. He’s doing it because he cares. He sees social programs as simply postponing the the day when the workers (not the special people, like him and his friends) are living in tin shacks without running water, and he wants to wean us off the safety net.
It’s as least as good an explanation as any other I’ve seen, and on a par with Lambert’s simple solution to the question – Obama behaves like a conservative because that’s exactly what he is.