Friday, September 02, 2011

The Obama Administration: Compromise as Weakness

I have seen two criticisms of Obama in recent weeks.

The first, which was loudest during the debt debate, blames Obama for gridlock in the federal government that postponed a debt ceiling debate to the last minute that contributed to lowering the country's credit rating. This is after he went 75% of the way towards meeting the Republicans on a compromise budget, he refused to go the other 25% and concede everything to the Republicans. And for refusing total surrender, he is to blame for confessional gridlock.

The second, and loudest in the past few days, claims that he is weak and unwilling to fight. He made a request to speak to a joint session of congress. House Speaker Boehner raised objections, so Obama changed the day. Now, Obama is weak for accepting what some people claim to be a demonstration of contempt for the office of President.

It really is a "can't win" situation.

I wonder how these types of situations come into existence? What cultural forces are at play?

I support Obama for being willing to negotiate and go the extra distance, willing to go 75% of the way towards compromise with a Republican leadership that refused to move even 10% of the way to meet him, as I discussed in Dogmatic Arrogance: The Picture of the 2012 Presidential Election

And, on the issue of which night to speak, thus is such a trivial matter I don’t see how it would even be worthy of a news article, let alone all of the noise I have heard this week. It simply is not worth another fight that the American people, ultimately, will view as petty and trivial (because it is). If it were me, I would throw my arms up and say to Congress, “Fine, you be petty and trivial, I will focus on what needs to be done to help this country.”

But is it not clear that Obama's strength or weakness comes from us?

The Tea Party Conservatives became such a powerful voice in Congress because we allowed them to - because we refused to fight and challenge them. We said, "Go ahead. Take the House." And now Obama has them to contend with.

And we allowed Obama to take the blame for the debt negotiations, because - well, I didn't hear very much noise at all condemning the Republican refusal to go even 10% of the way towards compromise. At best, I heard that since no agreement was reached, Obama and the Republicans were equally responsible. Thus is in spite of the fact that no deal was even possible with the Republicans that fell even a fraction of a percentage short if complete capitulation.

Now, there are people claiming that Obama is weak because he agreed to move the speech away from a day that hosted a Republican Presidential debate and onto a day that had a football game. I mean, seriously, can’t Obama recognize the value of sticking to his guns and not risk interfering with the first football game if the season? This is football, after all! It’s important!

At this point, the cost of these failures, if they continue, will be to have Texas governor Richard Perry in the White House, the Tea Party in control of the House of Representatives, and a Republican majority in the Senate at the start if the next election.

I am not a partisan individual. If the Republicans were the moderate party willing to negotiate, and the Democrats were controlled by the so-called "progressive" faction (a faction that I consider to be no less irrational and ideologically blind than its Tea Party counterparts), I would side with moderation.

But the fact is, at this particular point in time, moderation and compromise rests with the Obama administration, and ideologically blind, foolish, and insanely stupid extremism dominates the Republicans (and certain ideologically pure uncompromising and arrogant Democrats).

Ultimately, if there is any group to be blamed for our current predicament, it is the "compromise is weakness" crowd - both in the Tea Party that insists on withdrawing support on Republicans who compromise (whom the Republican representatives are listening to), and in the Democratic side that also insists on withdrawing support form a President who compromises (whom the Obama Administration, so far, and thankfully, has not listened to).

I read somewhere a while back - I do not remember where, that Americans are sitting on their hands waiting for Obama's "American President" moment. This refers to the point at the climax of the movie American President at which President Andrew Shepherd (played by Michael Douglas) announces that he is going to fight. The movie script then invites us to imagine the world uniting behind him against a few die-hard Republicans to create heaven on earth all with the backdrop of emotionally powerful theme music. We cut to a few closing scenes, and everybody lives happily ever after, and we don’t even have to get off of the couch. The script writer has made it happen with no effort on our part.

But this is not a movie where a Hollywood script writer will guarantee us a happy ending. This is reality where it is quite possible that, if things continue as they have, we will end up with Rick Perry in the Oval Office and a Tea Party in Congress.

And that’s something to be worried about.


Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying the political posts, seems to be the next logical step for an ethicist to discuss political philosophy rather than worry about super-intelligent A.I. You have a much better chance of 'saving the world' by clearing up people's thinking about politics than trying to infuse machines with an ethical code.

Josh said...

I second Wade's endorsement. I too do not consider myself partisan, although I am registered Democrat. Had I been voting age prior to Regan, I would have been registered republican. I believe that neither party has everything correct. I'm fiscally conservative, and believe the free market can go a long way towards affecting progressive change in our economy and general well-being. But the GOP of today is not free-market, even though their rhetoric proclaims they are. Balanced policies are the only way to go, because no dogmatic stance can be a good thing. Rather, basing decisions and policy on reason and evidence is the only way we can find out what works and implement it.

Josh Nankivel

Kristopher said...

good post. the anti-compromise people are creating a volatile political enviroment and it needs to stop.

obama looses support when he compromises on issues, so he compromises and loses support from his base

and the republicans who compromise lose support so they stop compromising which gains them support from their base

the preasure comes from us (not personally but as a people) and we are the only ones to blame for this problem. can you blame obama for compromising? can you blame republicans to reacting to the desires of the people?

mojo.rhythm said...

Alonzo said....If the Republicans were the moderate party willing to negotiate, and the Democrats were controlled by the so-called "progressive" faction (a faction that I consider to be no less irrational and ideologically blind than its Tea Party counterparts

I strongly disagree. Many members of the so-called "progressive caucus" are actually quite moderate, i.e. they would only be slightly to the left of Nixon.

Moreover, by comparative standards, they are much less irrational and driven by insanity than the Tea Party faction. For one, the vast majority of them do not think that climate change is a Communist conspiracy to implement total government control. Nor do the vast majority of them think that Barack Obama is the Kenyan-born Muslim love child of Malcolm X. Nor do any of them think that gay marriage is a threat to society that can only lead to group marriage, human-animal marriage and so on.

And nor do any of them think that the economy would start working again if the corporate tax rate was lowered from 35% to less than 5%.