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The Nature of Compromise in the Parallel Universe of White House Political Leadership

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If it were ONLY a question of this ONE particular negotiated "deal" with the Republicans, the White House's harsh response to the criticism by some progressive voters who supported Candidate Obama might justified. But, as in many things, it's the context of their criticism. Specifically, it includes the history of the president's prior commitment to ending tax cuts for the wealthy. It's the quality of his leadership on this "negotiated compromise" package of extended tax cuts, unemployment benefits, reduced payroll taxes and lower estate taxes.

Consequently, candor requires that Obama's compromise with the Republicans on the current tax deal must be evaluated against several other previously important issues connected to the prior exercise or lack of exercise of his presidential leadership., i.e., ending DADT, the war in Afghanistan, closing our border with Mexico, detainees at Guantanamo Bay, housing foreclosures, etc.

Ironically, on this basis, President Obama is correct. The criticism from his progressive base is indeed a resumption of the criticism directed at him during the debate on "the public option" issue in the healthcare bill.

The core of earlier criticism of the White House's leadership on the healthcare bill was its negotiations with Big Pharma. It seemed to many progressives that the president had preemptively compromised and conceded away the public option instead of aggressively fighting for it with the powerful bully pulpit of the presidency. Whether or not this is or was factually accurate is no longer credibly persuasive to many of the voters who tirelessly worked for Obama's election. Perception often shapes "reality."

The president has often said it is important to get away from Washington, to "clear one's head." In a previous blog I suggested that sometimes it appears as if Obama and his advisers are living and working in a "parallel universe." This "universe" consist of a state of apparent disconnected reality from "Main Street" America that prevented them from seeing that a greater post-presidential-election priority should have been placed on actions to stimulate employment and stemming the tide of rising home foreclosures instead of investing so much initial political capital to enact health care, without a public option.

Blurred and limited vision from this parallel universe similarly prevented the White House from seeing the same thing that the Tea Party movement saw about the escalating budget deficit and excess spending at a time of limited revenues.

The pending "deal," passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, includes a two-year extension of tax cuts for the wealthy, temporary reduction in the Social Security payroll tax, thirteenth month reauthorization of unemployment insurance, and an estate tax bonus for the rich. It is, minimally, estimated that the needed revenue the government forgoes collecting under the president's negotiated "compromise" is approximately $600 billion or an aggregate increase to the deficit in of $900 billion!

Whether progressives are unrealistic or simply inflexibly and politically "sectarian," one thing appears to be indisputable: In spite of the president's repeated pledges as candidate Obama that he would end tax cuts for the wealthy, extending such cuts now makes it more likely than not that they will become permanent at the expiration of the two-year extension.

Contrary to this and earlier posts on Obama's leadership on this negotiated tax compromise, I must admit that the actress Beth Broderick in her post makes the most compelling argument against my position in this matter. She writes:

The notion that we lost in 2010 because the White House did not tack far enough to the left is simply unfounded. A struggling economy was not helpful, but every election is ours to lose and we lost because we did not support our team. Turnout among Democrats was terrible especially by the young and newly registered, the very folks whose future depends on the success of this president.


If we turn into the latte version of the Tea party threatening censure of all but the most purely progressive, this country will continue to be torn apart. Let's leave the wringing and the rancor to the Republicans. We are not a party known for its unity, but we are united in our desire to work for the common good and to bend the will of history toward justice. President Obama is not perfect nor is he a purist, but he is on our side.

Maybe, we can both agree that "the jury is still out" until the presidential election of 2012.

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