Friday, December 17, 2010

Compromise...or capitulation?

When President Obama reached out to Republicans last year in an attempt to foster a bipartisan attitude in Washington, he was considered by almost everyone in his party to be demonstrating leadership and a commitment to end Washington's corrosive partisan ways.

Those moves bore no fruit, and his party was quick to suggest that the Republicans were simply too obstinate, too angry, too full-of-themselves to work with a man committed to getting deals done.

Fast forward to the end of 2010. The president and Republicans brokered a deal that will extend for two years the Bush-era tax cuts and also provide for extended unemployment benefits. And by doing so the president is considered a sell-out by many within the Democratic Party.


Perhaps the president is finally being who he wants to be -- pragmatic. So says one Democratic senator. The New York Times notes that the tax deal is just one of many that the President could see move forward in the final hours of the 111th Congress, and many of them could come with an internal political price:
The president’s liberal base is angry at him for what they view as a willingness to compromise too much in the service of getting the tax bill done. And conservatives waiting in the wings to wield their House majority next year are offended by the decision to push through the Democratic agenda this year.
Even some of his most ardent critics acknowledge that by moving to the middle (and I'm not sure he was ever that far from it, but let's not get sidetracked) the president will impress independent voters, essential as ever to winning the White House. 

Consider that if the president is a sell-out, then so, too, are many Democrats who make up the 111th Congress. As Politico notes in this story:
In the end, the House vote wasn't close, with 139 Democrats joining 138 Republicans to approve the bill. The Senate passed the bill comfortably as well Wednesday, 81 to 19.
Let's acknowledge that the cut-taxes-and-extend-unemployment-benefits bill again puts off until tomorrow the issue of the ballooning national deficit. But perhaps not for long, according to one New York Times report
The temporary nature of the deal, however, could lend momentum to broader efforts to overhaul the tax code and tackle the deficit. With the tax debate now scheduled to resume at the height of the 2012 presidential election, some lawmakers said they hoped the fiscal landscape could be redrawn and the cycle of lower taxes and higher spending brought to a halt.
So, which is it? Is Mr. Obama showing he's a leader by again affirming that he wants to see compromise over ideology, and deals over obstructionism? Or is it a wimp, caving in to Republicans who are determined to bully to get what they want?

I think you know the answer.

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