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President Obama: The Courage not to Fight

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In elections and political discourse, there are constant references to the world of the playground as in, Who will stand up to the bully? With the squabble about extending the Bush tax cuts, Democrats have been drubbing President Obama for slinking away from a donnybrook with Republicans.Though I have since come to my senses, as of yesterday I could barely look at the man I vigorously campaigned for.

Like many others, I was stamping my feet for Obama to take the battle over tax breaks for billionaires into the next session. Let Republicans take responsibility for the tax hike that would have resulted from a stalemate. Hang the havoc it would have caused on the recovery on the party of No. Let McConnell, Boehner, and company bear the blame for letting unemployment benefits expire at Christmas time for some two million people. But easy for me to press for a fight -- my wife and I have good jobs.

There is no doubt that an all out brawl would have nixed the extension of unemployment benefits. There would have been families without any income in the New Year. Moreover, taxes would have gone up the most on mid and low income Americans. In the scorched battle that many of us were clamoring for, it would have been the most vulnerable who would have been the casualties. Politicians, labor leaders, and pundits were not going to be in any peril.

No one questions President Obama's intelligence. Surely, he is percipient enough to grasp how this compromise was going to play out with his base. And yet, I think, he had the courage to risk his image, rather then play chicken with the lives of those already on the edge of the cliff.

We are always preaching to our kids to walk away from violence- even if it means seeming like a coward. In the recent fray, President Obama did just that. He was strong enough in himself not to be cowed by the prospect of seeming weak. He knew that by playing tough he would be playing with the lives of people for whom this fight was not a political game, but a matter of daily bread and paying rent. I applaud him for the mettle he showed in walking away from this fight.

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