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January 28, 2011

Obama the Passive-Aggressive Coward

The GOP has long shied away from direct, personalized attacks on Obama. They figure his personal standing is too high for that, so they attack him on policy grounds.

I think that has to change, and now. Obama has entered campaign mode, and the central pillar of that campaign is voting present.

e deficit is awful and must be cut, entitlements are unsustainable and must be addressed, the tax code hurts growth and must be reformed, and government should be smaller and more efficient, but don't look to Mr. Obama for ideas on how to fix any of this. Go ahead and cut spending and Medicare if you want, Republicans. The President will get back to you with his reply as time and politics allow.

After you, Congressman Ryan.

As political strategy, perhaps this will turn out to be shrewd. Republicans will advance their budget and spending cuts, Democrats will attack them, the voters will sour, and Mr. Obama will ride to re-election. It happened in 1996.

As leadership, however, this is an abdication that contradicts Mr. Obama's rhetorical flourishes...

Obama gives a speech studded with claims about his own "boldness" while punting on all the important issues and only offering cute-sounding, poll-tested anecdotes about the wonders of government intervention. Solar shingles! Fuel made from sunlight and water! High speed trains!

None of these address the central problem this nation faces, which is that we are going bankrupt and in fact stand on the edge of a financial precipice.

Obama's solution? A millionaire's tax and canceling oil company "subsidies" (which aren't subsidies, but normal expensing of stock). I won't even bother to argue that that will hinder the economy. Even assuming it will have no detrimental effect on the economy, the proposals fails. Even assuming taxes are the way out, the proposals fail. What Obama fails to mention is that even if the GOP decides to lobotimize itself and support these measues, they do not even begin to make the tiniest dent in the colossal debt we face.

We knock the GOP all the time for making tiny, largely symbolic gestures at cutting the budget. These cuts, most people know, do not even begin to bring revenue and spending into line.

Obama's proposed tax hikes are exactly similar, with the added feature that they'll also retard the rate of growth and thus reduce tax revenues to boot. But even assuming they had no such retarding effect, even if they did bring in what they are not-really-projected to bring in using static analysis, they would still do nothing at all to bring revenues anywhere near expenditures.

He's a coward. He has abdicated leadership on this issue, entirely, and feels that it's best if he does nothing at all about these things, because doing so might cost him the 2012 election.

But what is the point of a presidency if the president intends to just mark time for another four years as the nation spirals further into fiscal chaos?

"We do big things," Obama said. A pity Joe Wilson didn't speak up to say "You lie!"

It is time to call a coward a coward, and call him that early and often. The 2012 season is upon us, begun by Obama in his signature voting-present, say-nothing-interesting-and-hope-to-get-by-on-demeanor style.

It's time we started the 2012 season, then, and brand him a political coward, a timid time-marker who seeks a second term not for America's interest but for his own insatiable ego.

RINOs and "moderates" can do this too. "Coward" is too strong a word (might incite violence), but they can say he not showing any leadership when the country most needs it. When the nation most needs the president as a galvanizing force, Obama is hiding in the Oval Office reading focus-group reports on how "high speed trains" play in Iowa.

When I criticized the GOP and Ryan for not being stronger on these issues, several readers commented that there is no point, as the initiative must come from the president. They're right. One cannot set policy from Congress.

Obama is turing this into a game of chicken, which he's destined to win, as he's the biggest chicken in government. He wants the GOP to take the lead only so he can demagogue them, win in 2012, and then do nothing.

The GOP, for its part, has signaled, as strongly as possible, that they are in support of an effort to rein in spending and especially entitlements. I don't know how much harder he expects them to signal their willingness to seriously consider this issue. Ryan's put out his roadmap, and referenced it in the rebuttal to the SOTU. Jim Coburn is writing constantly about it. Even on the left, Dick Durbin also voted, with Coburn, for the changes proposed by Bowers and Simpson.

There is wide support on the right for this, and even a good amount of support on the left. What's missing? A president who doesn't want to do anything except give interviews to people who'll kiss his ass.

Even with the support of the GOP and many on the left, a real effort to get the nation's finance in order may fail. Amnesty failed despite a similar situation; the nation rose up against it.

That could happen here, too -- but notably, no one really paid a high political cost for amnesty. Because it didn't pass. And no one really paid a high political cost for Bush's attempt to do something with Social Security, because it didn't pass.

There is almost no risk here for Obama, then: If he fails, he fails, but as with those other two unpopular initiatives, the public was appeased mostly by their failure and did not seek additional vengeance.

So what's Obama's excuse for inaction? Even as far as the only thing that's important to him -- ego, bragging rights, being the center of attention -- an attempt to do something good and right won't end up hurting him much.

A coward is a coward. With two years left on his term Obama has already decided to be a lame-duck because that's the path of least resistance. His allies in the media will carry him, he figures, praising him for boldness and transformational effect even when he demonstrates none at all.

We have to fight that. He's a goddamned coward and he's destroying this country just so he can be remembered as a two-termer. A do-nothing two-termer, but who cares? As long as he gets to keep reading words off a TelePrompTer.

By the Way: He's a passive-aggressive coward on taxation, too, because he's doing the opposite of Reagan's "starve the beast." Reagan figured that if taxes were kept low, spending would have to come down.

Obama's doing the opposite. He's bloating the beast, counting on other people to raise taxes to the confiscatory levels he wants, but dares not call for himself. He is engineering a crisis with the hopes that the only solution will be huge tax increases... but he doesn't want his fingerprints on it. He'll do on this as he does on everything -- lead from behind. When a majority of people accretes around the idea that the only way to stave off fiscal calamity is to raise taxes, he'll reluctantly agree.

And when I say "raise taxes" I mean on the middle and working classes. Willie Sutton, the bank robber, was asked why he robbed banks. "Because that's where the money is," he said.

The middle class is where the money is in America, because there's so damn many of them. They don't have more money than the rich individually, of course, but in aggregate, they have much more money -- or, as Obama calls it, pre-extraction government revenue.

Obama has put this nation on a trajectory in which the middle class will not only lose the Bush tax cut but will have to pay a greater share of money to the government than any time in history.

He knows that's politically dangerous to say out loud, so instead he's passively-aggressively getting the nation a little big pregnant on spending so that one day we'll almost have to beg him to tax us.

He's a goddamned coward and it's time we had the guts to say so.

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posted by Ace at 02:39 PM

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