Is it time for President Obama to “go black” on his opponents? Time to put his hand on his hips, and let it rip? That’s what I am hearing from liberal friends and political activists. Get some backbone, Mr. President. Don’t let the Republicans push you around. Get mad, then get even.
Democratic loyalists saw their party lose big time in the midterm elections. They are teed off and want the sparks to fly. Obama fought the election with one hand tied behind his back, and a low dose of enthusiasm and testosterone. Now, the lame-duck congressional session is a splendid opportunity for Obama to make up for lost ground.
He will have a congressional majority for only a few more weeks. The Democratic base wants him to pick up his agenda. They want some movement on the New Start treaty, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the offshore drilling ban and tax cuts. These are the issues that will get liberal Democratic voters cheering again.
For example, Evanston-based Democrat U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky has dug in her high heels in the raging congressional debate about deficit reduction. Schakowsky serves on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a panel Obama created to devise ways to trim the federal budget and curb the nation’s skyrocketing deficit. Schakowsky refused to sign off on the final report. The proposals do not attack the “growing disparity” between the incomes of the rich, poor and middle class, she recently told Chicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet. The plan will not “get money into people’s pockets.”
Meanwhile, Obama needs to get tough on the rich, goes the liberal mantra. The long-term tax cuts for people earning a million dollars or more sticks deep in the craw of the lefties. They plead: How can the president let unemployment benefits lapse yet extend tax cuts for millionaires? The heat is on.
David Axelrod is the presidential adviser who prides himself on letting no opportunity slide by to say nothing. Yet even Axelrod could not restrain himself on this issue.
On Tuesday, when Axelrod appeared on the PBS NewsHour, interviewer Judy Woodruff asked, “We know the president would prefer that [tax cuts] not be extended for the wealthy. But if the Republicans insist on that, is he prepared to go along with it?” Axelrod responded: “Well, look, the president’s position is very clear. He thinks there ought to be a permanent tax cut for the middle class. The middle class had had a — not just difficult time in this recession, but it’s been battered through the last decade, where incomes have actually declined, while incomes at the top have actually — have grown exponentially. So that makes sense. What he’s also said is that we can’t afford a permanent tax cut for the wealthy.”
Woodruff pushed him: “Is there give, is what I’m asking.” Axelrod replied: “Not on those issues.”
The liberal voters who helped put Obama in office are craving some red meat. Maybe they would like to see a little more “Medea” in the White House. That’s Medea, Tyler Perry’s brassy, bossy, larger-than-life character who knows what she wants — and gets it. Medea does not play.
Memo to the liberals: It’s not Medea time. Obama is no angry black man. You elected Obama because he is a cautious, cerebral pragmatist. He always opts for the head, not the gut.
At this crucial moment in the negotiations with his Republican opposition, that’s a good thing. He is not letting anyone look at his cards. Meanwhile, he’s looking ahead to 2012.