Second-Term Obama Comes Out Swinging
It's balls-out time for Joe Cool. Elections, as they say, have consequences. The last president to win a second term did so by a paltry sixty thousand votes in Ohio and began talking like Kubla Khan about "spending political capital." None of this is lost on Barack Obama, who swept through 11 of the purported 12 battleground states; a performance, when compared to George W. Bush, looks like a windfall. It appears to have turned the first-term demure, pragmatic no-drama Obama into Daddy Warbucks.
If the president's first post-election press conference is any indication, there's a new sheriff in town:
"If there was one thing everybody understood, was a big difference between myself and Mr. Romney, it was when it comes to how we reduce our deficit, I argued for a balanced responsible approach, and part of that included that the wealthiest Americans pay a little bit more. I think every voter out there understood that that was an important debate and the majority of voters agreed with me. More voters agreed with me on this issue than voted for me."
Those are the sounds a man makes when he no longer has to run for office. It is powerful, even majestic, if not terrifying. Makes the most fearless among us truly understand the lofty position of the end game. It rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? End game. No more matches, debating or begging for money or trolling votes. Nothing left to do but talk tough and crack skulls.
Those on Capitol Hill are well acquainted with those sounds, specifically House Speaker John Boehner, who did his best to appear conciliatory in their wake. As if still in control of something pertinent, Boehner had to pay lip service to raising revenues with meager caveats. It was a stellar performance by a man whose job now is to hand out the shit cakes and shout, "Bottoms up!" It comes with the territory, and will be done, no doubt, with far less bravado and joyful tears than two years ago when he had the defiant look of a winner.
It is Boehner that must bring down the bummer on the Republican caucus. The people have spoken and none of it is what they want to hear. Hard rain, chief. This explains his sending whatever's left of Paul Ryan in to rally the troops, which in Washington-speak means coming to grips with defeat and what it means to know when the jig is up.
Both Boehner and Obama are poised to tackle the Fiscal Cliff. And why not? They both know what it's like to be sandbagged for a sniff of power. It's a wash; 2008 turned into 2010 and that turned quickly to 2012. It is Obama's serve and he is not lobbing a fucking thing anymore. This has got ace written all over it.
House Republicans are screwed and they know it. Slowly, the elder statesmen, the lifers -- those who could no longer give a flying fart for the fumes of the TEA Party when faced with reelection -- are getting in line.
Perhaps it's the reason Republicans have unleashed Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte to run with this murky Benghazi scandal, which appears to only be a scandal for those who wish the election results had gone the other way. It's a welcomed distraction to dogpile on U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice and just the kind of red meat you feed the base and the donors before you lick boots.
Whether the shaky intelligence, dismal security measures and incredibly crappy communication after the U.S. Embassy in Libya went up in flames in early September was a campaign conspiracy or an embarrassing lack of control by the White House is hardly the point. Of course there were problems, and a strategic "handling" of said problems. This is standard procedure and has been long before any of us were born.
And for those of us who don't have a grasp of how George Washington may or may not have handled the Whiskey Rebellion, the public only has to go back to 2001, when the federal government was well aware of the imminent attack on New York and chose to ignore it, and how, ironically, the woman most responsible for this horrendous disaster was the president's National Security Advisor and later Secretary of State. This other woman named Rice also went on a bevy of Sunday morning news shows in 2002 and lied about solid evidence of enriched uranium being shipped into Iraq; a lie boldly echoed by Senators McCain and Graham on the floor of the Senate.
This, of course, makes this fabricated pogrom on Susan Rice, a mere errant girl for the big boys, anything but political theater and will fail to reach the new year with any legs. The only question will be whether Joe Cool takes this dead-end ploy to derail his decision on whether to name Rice as Hillary Clinton's successor as a dare; something Republicans would love, since they have a better chance of pissing up that rope than the one they face on the budget crisis. After the first few post-election weeks of the newly emboldened Obama, the smart money is flooding in that direction. But can the Republican Party afford a bunch of old white guys pitching a fit at an African-American woman trying to replace another very popular woman?
How's that for politics, jack?
Nah, not even the wild and wooly Congress has the stones to pull that off. In fact, the only person going down around there is Grover Norquist, whose masterful lobbying reached epic proportions when he demanded dozens of Republican candidates sign a "no tax" pledge. That idea, while queerly noble, went bye-bye on Nov. 6. A fact not lost on a slow march of Republican senators who've already jumped ship in order to better read the tea leaves of 2014, when their asses will be on the line. Each and every one is fully aware of how 65 percent of the citizenry either being against something (Obamacare and the 2010 Democratic fallout) or for it (2012 election and taxing the rich) brings its own hammer.
The Republicans will give 'til it hurts, but should not forget that they still control the purse strings, ultimately. And the election, while binding, did not have the overwhelming tide the Democrats are selling. While the president is right, he has a solid majority of Americans demanding their tax cuts remain at the expense of the top two percent after Jan. 1, no one with half a brain thinks this is some kind of liberal mandate.
While significant, Obama's victory was mostly culture-based, specifically with Hispanics and women, and less economical. Many voters (48 percent of which did not vote for him) still felt his opponent possessed the better grip on fixing the nation's fiscal issues. His campaign, outreach, and ground game was vastly superior and Mitt Romney, as pointed out with sickening regularity for over a year now, mostly sucked.
The president should take heed that his predecessor, while walking around like the new emperor in 2004, eventually realized his fancy clothes were just a figment of his imagination, and before long his ill-conceived attempt to privatize Social Security did little but signal his second term woes.
Sure elections have consequences, but sometimes more so for the guy sticking around to do the job.