an inauspicious start
September 2, 2011 Leave a comment
The three-day Labor Day weekend is here again (thank you, Liberals), with its annual reminder of the last gasp at summer with its barbecues and parades and even a free day off for those of us who have spent the best months of the year trapped in windowless rooms.
But along with signifying the end of summer, Labor Day weekend traditionally signifies the beginning of the Political Season. It is the final, downhill push for candidates running in November’s general election and now that (the theory goes) people are back from the annual physical and mental break summer provides us, they are ready to pay attention again.
This year, as in 2007 and 2003, the Political Season also includes the final primary pushes as we head into January’s Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.
Also this year, the Political Season means a return to the ridiculous arguments and stalling tactics that have dominated the politics in this country since President Obama was elected and the opposition literally made their top priority not fixing the problems they caused, but instead doing everything they can to make Obama a one-term president, even if it means further tanking the economy and/or keeping the country in the ditch they so recklessly drove us into (to borrow one of the president’s metaphors that really is very apt).
The top issue? Once again, it’s the economy, stupid.
More specifically, it’s jobs. There don’t seem to be any. In fact, today’s jobs report shows the US job market absolutely stagnating. They say it is the worst showing in nearly a year.
And “seem” is, in fact, the right word.
When you look past the headline, once again the private sector added jobs, just not enough to counteract the public sector jobs that had to be cut, due to the cuts-only method of budgeting demanded by one party (which happens to be a party that ran up this ridiculous debt situation with two unfunded wars, giant tax cuts for the wealthy that did exactly the opposite of what they promised they would do, and the largest unfunded government program expansion in history). The results were also a bit skewed by 45,000 workers on strike when the count was done; workers that are technically employed, but not on that day, which took an additional 45,000 jobs off the books, inflating the jobless numbers for August…
But let’s be very clear about this: The Republican party is directly responsible for those 20,000 or so government employees being out work. They are literally increasing the unemployment rate and slashing services even as they do everything they can to force more people onto the state’s dole. This is their plan: keep slashing government at a faster rate than the economy can add jobs, which makes it look as though the President is failing.
It’s genius because, of course, the President gets the blame because no one pays attention to anything except the headline.
So it seems now that like most elections, 2012 will end up being more about the economy than anything else.
Therefore it is not surprising that the President, recognizing the importance of creating jobs to not only the economy but his flailing re-election campaign, has decided that a joint address to Congress is the way to not only present his plan, but also attempt to refocus lawmakers on the issue as they return from their summer vacations.
So the President sent the Speaker of the House a letter this week asking to come on down to the House and give a talk.
Which the Speaker, not surprisingly, rejected.
I say not surprisingly because John Boehner knows there is a Republican Primary debate scheduled for that night as well. Now, the reason Boehner gave the president makes some sense – the date he selected was the first day the House was supposed to be back in session and there is apparently a vote scheduled for that evening (though I can’t find what that vote is set to be, though it can’t be that important, coming back from a month off).
Why the Speaker can’t change plans when the President of the United States says that something is so important we have to talk now, I’ll never know. Which is why everyone with any sense realizes this is a bit of political gamesmanship.
And the President, as expected, backed right the fuck down.
The Republicans said “jump” and the President responded with “can I get you anything on the way back down?”
Can you imagine the outcry if Nancy Pelosi had told President Bush “Ooh, hey, we’re going to be voting on some bullshit that night. Can you come back again tomorrow?”
The Right’s collective head would have exploded about the indignity of the Speaker telling the President of the United States – the President – that she had better things to do than listen to him speak about the economy, which is everyone’s No. 1 concern right now. By a lot.
But this President, of course, bent over and moved his speech.
As we’ve come to expect.
Like the public option, the extension of the Bush tax cuts, the closing of Gitmo and the debt ceiling – among others – the President caved.
It is his legacy so far. And a depressing, depressing legacy it is for those of us who wanted “change.”
Instead of using the bully pulpit and shaming the Republicans into listening to the goddamn President – who is still quite easily the most popular national politician in the country – speak about the No. 1 issue facing this country, he backed off and gave the floor to Rick Perry, whom I guarantee would not have put up with the static from the House.
It’s also no good given what we learned in the 2004 election: the country doesn’t particularly care if you are a good leader, they just want you to show some leadership. Be forceful. If you are constantly giving in, you are going to lose because we Americans like decisive, strong leaders.
The Bush re-election proved that you don’t have to be good at it, or even be leading in a decent direction, you just have to be decisive.
For a student of history like the President, you’d think this would be an easy one.
But whatever the President’s plans are – and I am sure it is about 65 percent of what this country needs: public investment – I just hope he is more forceful about it and doesn’t start the negotiations from his knees. Again.
Though I don’t hold out much hope. In fact, $10 says that the President eventually accept a further tax cut and calls it a “victory” even though he’ll once again have
gotten his ass handed to him handed his own ass to them and capitulated.
What’s a centrist/progressive to do in the next election?