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Obama puts second term first

Updated: November 2, 2011 6:02PM

It takes a special kind of political courage — and a different kind of politician — to stare down the possibility of being a one-term president and not blink.

In 2008, Barack Obama pledged he was that different kind of politician. This week, he blinked.

And accepted a compromise in which he gave up everything — except moving the next deficit reduction/debt ceiling deadline beyond his own November 2012 re-election bid.

In so doing, the president caved to Tea Party members, a radical, confrontational minority that has transformed Obama’s “Change We Can Believe In” mantra into their own smirking “Yes We Can.”

Standing in the Rose Garden on Tuesday after the Senate vote, a stern Obama performed once more as Lecturer-in-Chief, speaking of Washington as though he was still the “outsider” he claimed to be in 2008.

And the president recited from the same dog-eared script we “ordinary Americans” know by heart. He talked about the “shared pain” members of the top income-tax bracket still don’t share; about jobs the jobless still can’t find and about the extension of unemployment benefits that Obama and Congress didn’t extend.

“After the recess,” the president said, he will task Congress with addressing those concerns.

It’s such a relief to know that Congress will have a taxpayer-funded August vacation to recharge their batteries and maybe get in a round of golf or two.

They can go back to their districts and reassure “the American people,” a phrase both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked ad nauseam this week, to defend this hollow, indefensible failure to address the panic and loss that gnaws at unemployed, foreclosed-upon families every day.

As Obama treks home to Chicago today to celebrate his 50th birthday — and raise funds for 2012 — even some of his ardent supporters are hardly in a party mood.

Ask, for instance, 67-year-old Linda Pardilla who, for a number of years now, has worked at a neighborhood pancake house in Lincoln Park. I was her first customer Tuesday morning when she was opening at 7 a.m., and even before we’d said “good morning” to each other, we were talking about Washington.

“When I left the Philippines in 1981,” she exclaimed, “we had no middle class, just rich and poor. And there, if all you had were three meals a day, well, that was enough to make you middle class. Now it’s becoming like that here!”

Linda, I should mention, is a Democrat.

A long-standing member of The Base.

She came to the United States with three young children who are now, thanks to her hard work and theirs, well-educated. And currently employed.

But their mother no longer believes their employment is a given.

“Before, if you didn’t like your job or wanted to move up and on, you could find other work,” Linda said. “But now, there are no jobs out there.”

And for her, working past retirement, there is the nagging worry about the Social Security and Medicare she will need. And of this so-called bipartisan compromise, which has spawned yet another bipartisan congressional commission — have we already forgotten Bowles-Simpson? — to kick the can farther down this still rocky road.

Obama, who could fearlessly hunt down Osama, seems to fear losing re-election more.

This is no time for a party.

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