The GOP leadership has been crystal clear that their prime directive is defeating you in 2012. Of course that is why they cry about deficit reduction more often than my four-year-old cries about leaky juice boxes. Of course that is why they say absolutely nothing at all about the jobless part of this so far jobless recovery. It is not in their best interest that Americans get back to work. So why, Mr. President, do you sometimes seem to play their game by their rules?
The longer the GOP can distract the administration, make it react to their ludicrous and ultimately halfhearted and damn near arbitrary proposed budget cuts, the less time the president will have to convince the electorate that he is serious about job creation. The GOP realizes that the election will not be won on the size of the deficit but on the length of the lines at the unemployment office. With still eighteen months before the next election the GOP is already trying to run out the clock.
The most maddening part of all this is that the administration sometimes seems to be letting them. How do you reconcile gearing up for the nation's new "Sputnik moment" the president spoke of in the State of the Union, his first clear and compelling effort since being elected to articulate a vision for a bold American future, with Depression-era police and teacher layoffs and crumbling roads? Yes he does talk about infrastructure and he did recently offer to help strapped states continue paying unemployment benefits. But keeping the unemployed and their families from temporarily starving to death, -- while noble -- is a goal far short of retraining them to compete in a new space race.
What depresses me and what I feel depresses many other democrats and independents is that I don't feel that the country's fate is in the hands of the Democrats we elected. I personally haven't felt this way since some time late in the health-care debate. Apart from that brief flurry at year's end, the messages, the agenda, the victors have seemed the GOP.
I had chosen to forget the heaviness in my heart that I felt during the Bush years, but the way one network, Fox, and their very small band of Tea Party foot soldiers took control of the GOP and from there control of the entire national debate has been so brilliantly seamless and so complete that some days I feel like I'm back partying like it's 2004.
The gross distortion of priorities reminds me of the way the Mercator projection distorted for centuries the way we viewed the earth. If you remember from high school geography, the Mercator projections are those flat maps of the world where Greenland looks as large as Africa even though Africa's actually 14 times bigger and Finland is stretched out like taffy. The Fox map of the world, the one they report from, has budget deficits and Islam as vast continents dwarfing tiny islands like the unemployed, the environment or predatory banking practices. Their map is unrecognizable to those of us actually living, working or looking for work on this planet. Sometimes, at my most depressed, I feel that the Democrats and the White House continue reading off that twisted and useless map, somehow having forgotten that it will get us nowhere.