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The President Is Dispiriting: He Still Doesn't Get It

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Watching President Obama address the White House Press Corps apres le deluge is a dispiriting affair. His attitude and approach threatens to dispirit further not just his base but all Americans. The result could make demagogues on the right more attractive and not only doom efforts to win back the House in 2012, but lose the whole business to a "courageous" right. And that could literally mean the end of our democracy, an outcome already helped along enough by Big Money and abundant hate.

First, he talks too much. Do the American people really want to hear about how depreciation works and how it provides a middle ground with the Republicans? Where's the empathy for the out of work stiffs, the immigrants who deserve an honest chance to contribute legally, the people who thought we were going to get real health care and instead got the industry's version?

(And what type of orator constantly precedes each statement with "I think," when he ought to be stating facts forthrightly and confidently?)

Second, the President gives away too much. Too many compromises were promised this morning already to occupy the President's legislative agenda through 2012. Without speaking a word about the oversized military budget, he is already promising cuts in programs, code words for snipping the social safety net.

Third, the President is unwilling to make the obvious case that the reason the Republicans are behind cutting federal spending is because they want their corporate buddies to do all the investing so that they can make profits. Government spending to create jobs is no less legitimate than doing it the private way, and can be a whole lot less expensive and (as other nations like China and the EU have demontrated) more effective. Plus the investments can be directed to meet public purposes.

Fourth, the President talks about transparency, but as he bows his head in submission before rightist members of the press who bring up the election results, he says nothing about the elections themselves and how bizarrely distorted they were by secret corporate spending enabled by a radically partisan Supreme Court.

Fifth, and lastly, he still doesn't get it. He doesn't get that the reason Democrats lost wasn't because Republicans, spurred on by the Tea Party, won. They didn't, especially if you subtract the effect of so much money (see above). It was because Democrats stayed at home in droves, totally disappointed in Obama's mismanaged first two years, beginning with his appointment of a demonstrably incompetent White House team that he was warned against by progressives and politicians alike. When will he take responsibility and stop blaming circumstances, when will he adhere to Democratic principles instead of crawling rightward?

If the President believes he is going to get the Republicans' cooperation, which he repeatedly credits - even though it doesn't exist - he is in for a very rough ride. They are going to sloganeer all over him. They are coming in fighting. He should have his dukes up and his strategy ready, and he should be able to rebut as well as to agree. It seems a weakness to be so accommodating, all the time. Okay, we know Plan R. What's Plan D?

As for the press corps, what a bunch of slaves. Instead of dealing with election as a political phenomenon worth tearing apart to see what's wrong with our democracy, in service to their conservative media masters, they are set upon forcing the President into a box that constrains him to compromise, to make nice with business, to fail to acknowledge his base's concerns. He could resist, of course, but it's not in his makeup. And they know it. They love to make strategy in this way. Reporters always crave this type of leading-question power that they otherwise sadly lack.

Democrats and their allies on the left should spend the next two years planning their own strategy. We can't rely on the President to do what's right. He just does. We have to be right. The nation depends on our autonomy, determination, and just plain smarts.

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