Wednesday, December 8, 2010


My friend Gary called this morning to ask if I'd received the clarity I asked for in my letter to the President last Saturday? I guess so. It was not, frankly, the clarity I wanted, but at least the reasoning was clear. Even Paul Krugman, who understands these things a great deal more than I and whose opinions I respect, stepped back a little from his earlier judgment.

In a comment on my original post, Daniel raised a valid and troubling question: Are you suggesting that if [Obama] does not capitulate to their demands on taxes, [the Republicans] would eventually agree to extend unemployment benefits anyway?

I actually believe they would have done. The political consequences of a failure to do so, I believe, would have been intolerable even to Republicans. But the truth is, I don't know. I also don't know whether the President would have won the other concessions--or indeed future battles on a variety of important matters--had he stuck his heels in, as so many of us wanted.

Of course I want Obama to stick to my principles--and to those I presume to be his. Of course I want to see him stand up inflexibly to inflexible and wrong-headed obstructionism. But, as that dreadful old parental retort has it, "I want doesn't get." It's not enough to simply want radical reform. Obstacles unfortunately do exist, as do conflicting opinions, contradictions and ambiguities. Here's the uncomfortable contradiction I personally have to live with on this "morning after": Even though I myself consider the compromise on taxes to be wrong, I am inclined to believe that it was right to make it.

I now stand back an anticipation of the of the back-blast... Have at me!


roger said...

i am not blasting, just not understanding your thinking. the president contradicted HIS OWN declaration of principle on taxes. and that's on top of ratifying torture and illegal wars. do you have a line he mustn't cross?

mandt said...

The rentier classes, where, thankfully, much of Enlightenment philosophy is still shaped in progressive political thinking is not really affected by this decision; unlike the poor, working class and others, who will see in about two years vast social service cuts in a new bid by Republicans to eliminate 'socialism' by cutting the deficit. Obama's decision is the height of cynicism unless one actually considers the truth that he is not a liberal at all. Don't worry about a blast, most of my painful education has come from the intelligent critique of friends. :)

mandt said...

PS Peter, I don't know if you ever read IOZ, but on occasion therein lies among his smarty-pants renditions of snark a gem or two (probably because I often agree with him) check this one out about Obama and why:

PeterAtLarge said...

Here's the question I ask myself, Roger: once I've drawn my line, then what? Am I further ahead, or just satisfied that my line is drawn, and that's that? As an old-time pragmatist--and I guess, too, as a Buddhist--I'm interested in what results will follow my actions, and I don't think that my line will produce them, no matter how principled I am or how forcefully I draw it.

Thanks, MandT, for the referral. I'll check it out.

CHI SPHERE said...

Perhaps his move is one designed to lay the responsibility on the other party come election time in two years regarding the $700,000,000,000 given to those who make more than $250,00 per year. If one looks at the tax declarations of 90% of senators serving now it is clear that each one of them will be served.

It is not a line in the sand. It is a scratch on our backs compared to the carbon debt we owe our mother earth.

If "don't ask don't tell" and other pending legislation like extending unemployment and cap in trade can be pushed through the lame duck session before Christmas Eve it may have been worth the moving the line.

If Mandt's prediction that 'socialism' is eliminated down the line by the cynicism she see's in Obama's trade wind tactics then we all may need to move to the far north.

Roger, the wars are all illegal in my mind, along with the torture my brothers and sisters endured and still endure at he hands of wealthy pirates some of whom are politicians!

TaraDharma said...

See for an interesting (and I think realistic) take on Obama's latest decision.

I'm actually hoping the house does not pass the budget proposal. It sets a bad president for someone who is very likely looking at one term. Now is the time for the President to turn up the volume and be confrontational. It's what his supporters want, it's what the country needs. The GOP are damned hypocrites, with their talk about fiscal responsibility, and everyone knows it.

robin andrea said...

There is a line in the opening poem from the film Seven Beauties: In the face of some things you must say no.

I agree with Tara, I would rather see the tax cuts expire than for Obama to negotiate from such a pathetically, self-imposed weakened position. I have never been more disappointed with a Democratic President than I am at this moment. The Bush Tax Cuts were reconciliation hanky panky to begin with, required Dick Cheney's vote to get passed, had no way of paying for itself and doomed our country to the disaster we are facing. That Obama negotiates to let them continue for two more years is an insult to Democratic principles.

roger said...

if you refuse to draw a line someday someone else will draw a line with you on the wrong side.

what do you stand for?

perhaps you could offer a comment on the not-so-subtle attack on social security in the tax deal.

i'll suggest that if enough of us take a firm stand and stick with it it will have an effect. i think your line would have an effect. try it. what have you got to lose?